Is U.S. Losing R&D Edge?

The New Reality in Science and Technology

The United States spends billions annually on research and development, and we have to make this investment count. To maintain our global leadership, we need to focus research on the right things and we have to make tough decisions. Of course, we are all aware of the pressures that budgets are under; the era of endless government research funds is over.

To stay on top, the U.S. must realign its priorities and focus investment in areas that have the chance to create something other societies want. That means continuing to invest in science and technology (S&T), but we have to be smart about the way we do that. In harsh terms, we cannot afford to spend one dollar on things that will not help the U.S. stand apart from the rest of the world.

Leaders of S&T laboratories can undertake five actions to improve the quality of their portfolios:

  1. Figure it out for yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you why you are in business.
  2. Align your portfolio to both tactical and strategic needs. Determine what is important to you and your staff.
  3. Senior management steers the ship. Portfolio management is not easy. Don’t leave it up to a department to handle.
  4. Rely on logic and common sense. If you involve the right people and use the right approach, the decisions coming out the back end are unassailable.
  5. Don’t ignore the human factors. If you want to actually achieve something, don’t opt for an IT systems approach. Passion or complex notions of worth and value cannot be automated.
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