"Measuring and Predicting the Performance of an R&D Organization: The [InnoCentive] Seeker is looking for new ideas on how to measure and quantify the performance of an innovative R&D organization. In addition, the Seeker is interested in identifying a model to predict the future success-likelihood of an R&D organization, based on a pre-defined set of performance criteria. The goal of this Challenge is to preserve and increase the value of an R&D organization within a company."
The above is something that I came across this week. As someone who has worked, and currently works, in R&D departments, I've got to wonder what the motivation for that idea might be? Does "preserve" represent the R&D's own attempt at proving its value to management? Does "increase the value" represent the Bean Counters attempt to get money out of a department for this quarters, short sighted, bottom line? We can only speculate. If you do have an idea, for doing such measurements they are willing to reward you $1000 to $5000.
My question to you is how long should pure research take? In all of my own years in R&D I can't really think of any pure research that was done for the sake of learning something new, that has not been known before. It has always been about product development, something tangible that could be shipped at the end of the month or the end of the quarter, or before the next show deadline.
We all have research ideas, my own would be to study the past work of James Harris Rogers for communications, and low energy plasmas for energy. Alas few organization are willing to foot the bill for pure research that may lead to nothing, or lead to the next technological revolution.
As few employers are willing to fund ideas, there are at least two "services" that I know of where we are offered money in exchange for our ideas, when they match up for what someone else needs: InnoCentive and Yet2. [Make sure you're not violating any terms of your employment contract, by participating with such services.]
InnoCentive describes themselves as "the global innovation marketplace where creative minds solve some of the world's most important problems for cash awards up to $1 million".
Yet2 says their "mission is to help you identify and capture the full value of your intellectual assets. Intangibles such as intellectual property (IP) comprise as much as 75% of the market value of many companies. Yet, many companies do a less-than-optimal job of leveraging and extracting value from their IP."
There was one particularly memorable Yet2 opportunity where the Seeker was offering $5000 for something that I would think would be worth billions, if it was to ever be created. If I was to repost it here no family or spam filter would ever let it through... What actually makes it memorable was how low an amount was being offered for something that would be so valuable.
Today's [May/2nd/2010] Yet2 headline is interesting as well:
"Seeking: Ideas and protocols that can differentiate terrestrial life from indigenous exobiological life -- If you found a microbe on Mars, how could you tell if it was indigenous or if it had hitched a ride there from Earth?"