Information & Communication
Information and communication technology (ICT) con- tinues in 2017 as the largest and strongest R&D indus- try—the future is ICT. With technologies such as artificial
intelligence (AI), Big Data, Cloud computing, quantum
computing, autonomous operations, machine learning, deep
learning, and hardware and software virtualization, there is
an abundance of leading-edge concepts that will keep ICT
at the forefront of R&D efforts for years to come. ICT has
already become an integral part of most new discoveries.
According to a recent R&D Magazine survey focusing on
ICT, the leading innovation areas for ICT are in science
and engineering applications and biomedical applications.
ICT’s importance in the biomedical arena emphasizes the
growth that application has seen and the level of involvement of ICT in that growth.
An analysis of the ICT industry by R&D Magazine reveals
that global ICT R&D will increase by 5.1% in 2017 to $218.3
billion, while the U.S. component of those R&D investments
will increase at a similar 5.1% to $122.2 billion in 2017.
A big part of R&D growth is driven by the
mega-giants in the ICT environment:
The average growth from 2016 to 2017 in R&D spending for these ICT companies is 7.7%—far ahead of most
other industries, other than those in life science where the
average R&D growth is more than 15% to accommodate the
long-term nature (up to 12 years) of drug development and
the very expensive processes involved (up to $1 billion per
approved new drug entity).
The rapid and unique growth of ICT technologies
has led to changes in the conventional ways that R&D is
performed in some of the industrial ICT organizations.
The older, more conventional companies have a structure
of research labs scattered throughout the world to support
their basic research requirements and support the local
communities. IBM, for example, has 12 research labs on six
continents. Substantial basic research is performed at these
labs and numerous Nobel Prize winners populate them.
Microsoft has a similar organizational structure with nine
research labs on six continents. In both the IBM and Micro-
Rapid and Strong ICT R&D Growth
2017 R&D R&D Growth 2015 Revenues
Google $15.8 billion 13.0% $75.0 billion
Microsoft $13.2 billion 5.8% $93.6 billion
Intel $13.5 billion 5.3% $55.4 billion
Apple $11.5 billion 15.7% $233.7 billion
Cisco $6.8 billion 3.2% $49.2 billion
IBM $4.6 billion - 6.3% $88.5 billion
soft research labs, there are specific technologies focused on
at the labs.
Apple is also creating a global network of research labs
focusing on specific technologies in Japan, China (two labs),
France and Indonesia. Intel initially created six research
labs, but decided to reorganize its research operations to include all research performed at Intel, including the research
work performed outside of Intel. Intel now directly funds
research, such as the Intel Science and Technology Center
for Visual Computing at Stanford University.
Alphabet/Google also takes a non-traditional approach
to its research operations. At Alphabet, most of the fundamental research is performed in various offices of Google’s
product divisions. This concept supports the collaborative
nature of the research throughout the organization. Embedding researchers working on fundamental concepts into the
core business makes it possible for the company to encourage creative contributions who are far removed from any
kind of formal research and development. Secretive projects
within Alphabet are performed in product development
shops rather than research labs. This concept mirrors the research programs at Edwards LifeScience, Tesla Motors and
Space X, where short-term R&D needs are accommodated
while also considering “blue sky” ideas and concepts.