2012 R&D Trends Forecast: Results from the Industrial Research Institute's Annual Survey: R&D Managers Are Optimistic about Investment in R&D as Focus on Innovation Intensifies

By Antcliff, Richard R. | Research-Technology Management, January-February 2012 | Go to article overview

2012 R&D Trends Forecast: Results from the Industrial Research Institute's Annual Survey: R&D Managers Are Optimistic about Investment in R&D as Focus on Innovation Intensifies


Antcliff, Richard R., Research-Technology Management


The Industrial Research Institute's (IRI) 2011 survey of member companies suggests a general optimism about R&D investments for 2012. This year, 104 companies across a broad range of industries provided input to the survey; R&D increases are expected across almost all industry sectors, with new-business development projects the primary beneficiaries of new investments. As in past years, survey respondents identify the aggressive pursuit of innovation and the balance of innovation in the overall R&D portfolio as key management challenges. These R&D leaders are also concerned about identifying and accessing talent. They are pursuing a number of strategies to address these concerns, most notably alliance development, and they continue to develop global networks to provide streams of innovation and access to global talent pools.

Background

This is IRI's 28th R&D Trends Forecast. The survey, which was conducted in July and August of 2011, asks R&D leaders about their expectations for industrial R&D investment in 2012; the analysis is based on responses from 73 IRI member companies and 31 non-IRI companies. Because this is a voluntary survey and IRI membership changes due to business events such as mergers, the mix of companies changes from year to year. Nevertheless, we believe that there are a sufficient number of responses from the industrial R&D community for the data to be meaningful.

The results of this survey are discussed as follows:

* A profile of participants

* A summary of R&D expectations

** The trends of expectations over time

** The trends by industry sector

** A look back at last year's predictions and a comparison with this year's results

* Insights into R&D collaboration

* Trends in international collaboration

* Answers to the question "What keeps you up at night?"

Profile of Survey Participants

The 104 survey participants came from a broad cross-section of industries (Figure 1). The participants are medium to large companies, many multinational, with a total of 240 laboratories outside of the United States in 38 countries.

Of the companies surveyed, 75 percent were IRI members, but nonmembers were also invited to participate, and 31 nonmember companies accepted the invitation.

A Summary of R&D Expectations

The principal survey questions asked about projections for R&D spending over the next year relative to spending over the previous year (Table 1).

The R&D managers we surveyed were quite optimistic about R&D spending in 2012; 94 percent of respondents indicated that they expected R&D spending to remain the same or increase, while only 6 companies reported expecting a decrease. As in the past, the managers expect this increase to be focused on new-business projects. While most respondents reported expectations that capital spending, support of existing businesses, and directed basic research would remain relatively fiat, almost 70 percent indicated that they thought R&D budgets focused on new-business development would increase, as compared with only 8 percent who thought their spending in this area might decrease. It should be mentioned that although funding for directed basic research was expected to remain fairly flat on average, some participants reported significant changes in these budgets, either increases or decreases, reflecting very different strategies for the future.

The expectations for R&D hiring in 2012 remain positive. Most respondents expected hiring to remain at current levels or increase slightly, either through increases in professional personnel levels or through new-graduate hiring or both. Finally, most respondents indicated that their companies are maintaining their current licensing strategies; approximately 70 percent of managers indicated that they will not change the dollar value of licenses that they acquire or produce in the coming year. …

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