Lose R&d Data and Perish

By: James Walsh


IBM has been awarded the maximum number of patents than any other company, in the United States for 12 successive years i.e. between 1992 and 2004! The United States is the leader in R&D spending. The top 10 investors in R&D efforts, accounted for $35 billion, in the U.S (i.e. 2 out of every 3 dollars earned, was ploughed back into R&D). The pharmaceutical industry spent a colossal 70.5 billion pounds on R&D, to overtake the software and services industry's spending of 64.5 billion pounds. Pfizer, Ford, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft spent more than 5 billion pounds each on R&D. In 2004, the top 1000 companies spent $384 billion on R&D, collectively. In 2006, the top 1000 R&D spenders forked out almost 500 billion on R&D.

From the above statistics, it is easy to arrive at the conclusion that R&D has a long tradition and requires committed fiscal spending of mega bucks, to retain an extra edge over the rest of the market and for pure survival. Though there is no direct correlation between increased R&D expenditure vis-Ã?-vis profits, R&D spending is on the rise. It improves the competitiveness of modern industry.

R&D spending has been delivering results to expand the horizons of mankind (for increasing its physical and mental comfort levels). All around us are the obvious results of R&D.

The areas of aviation, pharmaceuticals, information technology, automotives and defence are heavily dependent on successful R&D efforts. To look at the process of R&D, from a micro level, it can be clearly seen that it involves money, manpower, equipment and, most importantly, the knowledge base, to get off the starting block.

The knowledge base encompasses a rigorous, single-minded devotion to achieve an objective by following certain defined or evolved procedures and practices (i.e. controlled experiments). These experiments generate base data and a continuous flow of data which constitute the outcome of the experiment (i.e. the findings or conclusions). Fine-tuning the desirable results for commercial exploitation is possible only by getting the right data about market conditions and consumer preferences.

So, we cannot escape the fact that valuable, closely guarded data is involved in the process of R&D and can make a difference to the existence of a company. Every bit of data has already been paid for, by the allocation of funds to R&D efforts, by the company, even before it sees the first market payoffs. NASA, the space agency, of the United States which received a budgetary allocation of $16.8 billion in 2007 is spending around $4.5 billion on the Space Shuttle programme annually without immediate commensurate returns for a few years. This is the tale of many companies, which are forced to spend on R&D, just to keep going, in the hope of future profits.

Any R&D efforts that promise a revolution in terms of commercial exploitation and popularity of a product, at the time of its future market release makes the whole exercise of R&D worthwhile and assures the continued existence and high market visibility of the inventor. The investor also recovers the millions pumped into R&D. These benefits are very tantalising for the competitors who will not hesitate to take the shortcuts of industrial espionage and theft of the precious research data.

The data produced by such R&D efforts is normally in the form of equations, formulae, designs, process details etc. They are, therefore, given utmost care and security to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands or getting accidentally obliterated. Most R&D facilities use maximum security (electronic and human), maximum tolerance (to natural onslaughts), and physical facilities to conduct the R&D exercise.

The data is also backed up and stored in such sophisticated storage facilities, across locations, in different encoded formats by using different types of storage media (digital or physical). Exclusive Servers with fool-proof restricted access, compact discs, tapes, flash memory chips, bomb/fire/water/weather-proof safety vaults for holding paper blueprints are some examples of preferred storage.

When such invaluable digitised data is on the verge of being lost, sanity demands that there should not be a momentary hesitation in consulting renowned and reputed data recovery experts, if the facility is not available in-house. Most of these professionals provide for a strict confidentiality clause and also take utmost care in retrieving the valuable data. The cost of recovering the data is only a drop in the ocean of your R&D spending, future profits and your survival!

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