Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Technology Leadership in Turbulent Times: DuPont Remains Committed to Science-Based Innovation for Business Growth

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Technology Leadership in Turbulent Times: DuPont Remains Committed to Science-Based Innovation for Business Growth

Article excerpt

At the World Economic Forum, in January 2008, eminent government and finance leaders argued that we live in a decoupled world today and an economic slowdown in the United States would not affect other countries. However, the unexpected happened. In the fourth quarter of 2008, we saw the worst global recession since the 1930s begin. Horror-struck by what unfolded, everyone sought to understand the implications for them personally, for their businesses and for government actions around the world.

Although we have recently begun to see green sprouts of growth stimulated by government actions, we all recognize this will be a long and unpredictable recovery to what could be "a new normal." Senior leaders wonder, "How will we compete in the new reality? What will our sustainable competitive advantage be? How will the competitive landscape of the industries and markets we serve be different, and what actions must we take to prepare our organizations and ourselves to compete in this new and changing world? How can we take advantage of the crisis?"

Role of Technology Leadership

As technology leaders, we bear a special responsibility to help our corporations make the right choices to emerge from these times--bolder, smarter and stronger for our new economic reality. This special responsibility underscores the critical role that organizations such as the Industrial Research Institute can play, and the value of leadership forums and publications such as this one. We must use the crisis as an opportunity, and derive a competitive advantage from it! By driving corporations to bring clarity to their strategy and to become more selective in their choices for future growth, research and technology leadership must play an essential role in creating pathways out of the recession that has embraced our globally networked world.

We must learn from history--our own and that of other companies that have shown staying power through difficult times. We must listen and look for what is changing in our markets, in the use of new technology and in emerging companies that possess powerful technology.

We must develop organizational insights about the intersection of market opportunities and strengths of each of our companies to make strategic choices about where to concentrate resources.

Opportunities in a Dynamic Environment

For 200 years, DuPont has used science to transform and adapt to the emerging needs of what we call today the developed world. Transformation for our third century began more than a decade ago at the intersection of three sets of potential scenarios. One set involved the significant opportunities for growth presented by market discontinuities. The second set derived from the recognition that the fields of biotechnology and nanotechnology offer new technology nodes for developing innovative solutions to both existing and emerging challenges. The third set met the important needs in developing countries that many of our existing products with the right customized development could meet.

Growth possibilities offered by market discontinuities and rapidly evolving scientific fields, combined with established technologies, allow new solutions for both existing and emerging markets. The technical capabilities we have today have expanded greatly from those we had just a decade ago, and being first to market with customer-focused, tailored solutions often provides the key to winning.

DuPont's brand recognition and technology reputation give us the access we need to quickly introduce new business offerings around the globe. We are in the early stages of our third major transformation as we incorporate new agricultural biotechnology, industrial biotechnology, and nanotechnology tools, along with our strong stable of skills in chemistry and materials science to grow businesses using integrated science and also to enhance the sustainability of our planet.

At DuPont, through our scenario planning sessions, we have identified several global trends that fit the "sweet spot" of our scientific capabilities. …

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