Here is an interesting article in the WSJ with significant impact on long-term R&D strategy: China’s Drones Raise Eyebrows at Air Show.
Western defense officials and experts were surprised to see more than 25 different Chinese models of the unmanned aircraft, known as UAVs, on display at this week’s Zhuhai air show in this southern Chinese city. It was a record number for a country that unveiled its first concept UAVs at the same air show only four years ago, and put a handful on display at the last one in 2008.”
Amazing progress on Chinese front. During the cold war, USA and Russia kept pumping money into R&D. This long-term research provided sustainable lead to countries and was a source of significant innovations such as ASICs, Interenet, etc.
I think the difference between the cold war and now is the significant increase in the rate at which technology is changing. Slow progress over decades just won’t be sufficient against newcomers because they will be starting from a much more advanced computing platform. They will be able to model new environments/materials and manufacture with increasingly more capable machines. In fact, in many cases a long legacy is a drag on new innovations.
The answer, however, is not the complete elimination of long-range research. The answer is to develop more robust R&D plans, so that impact of changes in one technology can be propagated quickly across the entire system development. The answer also is a frequent re-balance of R&D portfolios to account for changing technology/market/geopolitical landscapes.
I guess R&D managers need even more powerful tools and processes.