Bell Labs’s New Mandate: Make Money

21 August 2006 at 1:18 pm 1 comment

| Peter Klein |

AT&T’s legendary Bell Labs — home of the transistor, the laser, UNIX, cellular telephony, and other breakthroughs — is being turned into a profit center.

Each [project] is expected to make back six times what it spends on research. Those with the biggest financial potential get the most funding. Researchers often condense their work into eight-minute PowerPoint presentations. [New head Jeong] Kim also seeks more government research grants and is aiming to speed the transformation of technology into products by seeking corporate partners and venture capital.

In earlier days, Bell Labs’ scientists might have rejected Mr. Kim’s commercial approach to science. Not now.

So reports the W$J on today’s front page. I suspect that advocates of increased public funding for R&D will take this as further evidence of the market’s inability to supply public goods. Terence Kealey demurs.

Update: The University of Illinois, recognizing the growing importance of for-profit universities such as the University of Phoenix, will establish a for-profit subsidiary. (Via Richard Vedder)

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Institutions, Methods/Methodology/Theory of Science.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Basic Versus Applied Research » Doctor Recommended  |  22 August 2006 at 6:02 pm

    […] Apropos my discussion on how much firms should spend on research and development, Peter Klein notes that Bell Labs seems to have successfully transitioned into a commercially-based R&D center (e.g. for-profit). […]

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