RESEARCH EXECUTIVES ROUNDTABLE
“We’re sitting on that scientific board to help
advise and gain insight on where their trends
are going and what type of technologies may
be deployed inside that growing space.”
The value that panelists placed on col-
laborations is high, and they say that gov-
ernment agencies and partner industrial
organizations generally benefit from having
access to another organization’s capabilities
“We definitely gain a lot of value getting
outside perspective on what we’re doing. It’s a
great forum to share thoughts and ideas. We
definitely benefit from it. I think it has accelerated and will continue to accelerate these
kinds of relationships,” says Gudbrand.
Balancing objectives, challenges
Each organization at the Industry Executives’ Roundtable has a different approach to
R&D. Dow Microbial Control has both an
R&D group and a technical services group.
The R&D group, which represents 20% of
the division resources, is responsible for longer-term objectives, including new market
and new technology platforms. The technical
service group, which accounts for 80% and is
managed by Strittmatter and Dow Microbial’s commercial director, is more focused on
customer needs and delivering business.
Dede’s organization is able to focus more
on long-term research, he says, but partnerships with universities or in-house projects
sometimes demand consideration for immediate product needs from Toyota Motor
Corp. From 60 to 70% of TRI-NA’s activities
look two or three product generations ahead,
but occasionally a study needs to be completed in a month or two.
“As a research organization, we have to do
a little more toward the development side
and a little less towards the research side, but
I think that’s why it’s called R&D. It’s a balance,” says Dede.
To manage a product portfolio spanning
several divisions and numerous technology
areas, Thermo Fisher Scientific has developed a sophisticated process for evaluating
long-term and short-term research efforts.
“Our R&D projects walk through a prior-
We define a series
of filters whereby
we select and rate
projects, and this
ends up being
to the specific
strategy that we
have for the business,” says Gudbrand.
A filter, he
says, could be IP,
IP effectively. If so, product differentiation
would occur. If not, the area may already be
saturated with IP.
One area that Shine and Gudbrand are
looking closely at is public health, which
they say is a crucial macroeconomic trend
that Thermo Fisher Scientific is in a position
“From a safety perspective, if we look at
food safety and drinking water, many of our
instruments play in that space as well. I think
Thermo Fisher is well positioned to meet
those macroeconomic, culture-wide issues,
and I think we’ll definitely do what we can to
support those efforts,” says Shine.
Both Dede and Strittmatter pointed to
energy independence as a defining goal for
the U.S. and its industrial base. The pursuit of new solutions in energy is not only
important, they say, it’s an opportunity.
Energy should not be seen as a threat.
“Energy research represents growth in real
value by creating jobs such as manufacturing. Embracing energy independence and
the political stability that comes with that is
one of the biggest challenges we face. And
we have to move quickly on that,” says Strittmatter.
Another challenge is the willingness of the
federal government to support fundamental
research, and the role it plays in educating
future generations of science, technology
and engineering companies. In addition to
dealing with government funding under
pressure, the ability of companies to find
skilled workers could be more challenging in
“A lot of the fundamental research does
tie back to grants. It ties back to the National Institutes of Health and other sources of
funding. There is a lot of pressure in Washington these days to reduce that spending,”
According to Dede, many of the most
skilled researchers, with doctorates, arrive
from overseas and leave because they either
cannot get an academic job or do not find
opportunities in industry.
“Science and technology, engineering,
mathematics: All of these skills are basically
leaving the country right now. If we can
create these opportunities for jobs related
to engineering using these science and math
skills, I think there is a lot of opportunity
for the country,” says Dede.
Shine agrees, saying that organizations
like Thermo Fisher Scientific can help by
consciously casting a wider net for skilled
researchers: “From a diversity and inclusion
perspective we need to broaden the pool
of people that have that expertise, not just
people that have traditionally gone into
those fields, but attract new people who
want to do that, whether it’s more women
inside science or other nationalities.”
At PID Analyzers, Driscoll participates in
the National Chemistry Week at the Muse-
um of Science and the Boston Children’s
Museum. The organization reaches about
3,000 K- 12 students, and his work with the
Boy Scouts has connected with 400 more.
“I think that if the U.S. is going to maintain their technology edge in the future,
then we have to have better educated people
in science, technology, engineering and
math,” says Driscoll. “We do a lot of work
with STEM because, I think, STEM is the
only thing that’s going to save us in the
Global Director of Research
Dow Microbial Control