I just read a blog on WashingtonPost.com that essentially says that a business is doomed to failure if it cannot be on the cutting edge of innovation. And there is no bigger source of innovation than the ideas, products, and designs that come out of those valuable R&D dollars. But R&D will experience a squeeze on a widespread scale in the coming year. Why? Well, for one, offshore outsourcing has become an ingrained practice for the U.S. Another reason is that when it comes to R&D macro-investment, our colossal federal deficit makes any investment that does actually take place likely to occur outside the R&D sector. For the foreseeable future, the Fed has other priorities, like steering us out of this financial quagmire.
So, what can businesses that are experiencing their own R&D budgetary constraints do to stay on the progressive edge? One simple solution might be to invest in cheap, under-the-radar experiments. I don’t mean basement cloning, but business might benefit from testing certain products or practices without a lot of publicity or advertising. Think about the NASA scientists who were forced to find innovative solutions to bring Apollo 13 back to Planet Earth safely – using only what resources were available inside the powered-down module. Hey, if Ed Harris and Tom Hanks can do it, I think we can find a way to innovate using the bear minimum, with scaled-down budgetary restrictions.