Research in the Industrial Corporation: I

  • John Jewkes
  • David Sawers
  • Richard Stillerman


Although inventions still continue to emerge in the more traditional ways- from the individual inventor and the university laboratory — new sources have appeared in recent years such as the research organisation of the industrial corporation, the industrial research association of a whole industry, the specialised institution (profit or non-profit seeking) and the government research laboratory. Of these newer centres that which has attracted most attention and aroused the greatest hopes of further technical advance is the industrial research organisation owned by the firm itself, and especially by the large firm. This is a modern development. Its beginnings are to be found at the end of the last century but the momentum of its growth has increased within the past decade and it is perhaps not too much to say that it constitutes the most spectacular change since 1900 in the activities of the industrial corporation. Very sweeping claims are now made both as to the benefits which have already accrued from industrial research and as to its future potentialities. It is not infrequently suggested that the operation of a research organisation is a condition of survival — ‘any firm which does not conduct research would quickly go bankrupt’.


Large Firm Research Organisation Industrial Research Corporation Research Directing Head 
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  1. 1.
    ‘The trend towards more and more complex apparatus should be carefully watched and controlled; otherwise the scientists themselves gradually become specialist machine minders, and there is a tendency, for example, for an analytical problem to be passed from the micro—analytical laboratory to the infra—red laboratory and from there to the mass spectographic laboratory, whereas all the time all that was needed was a microscope and a keen observer.’ (R. M. Lodge, Economic Factors in Planning of Research, Nov. 1954.) Many great scientists have shown a preference for simple apparatus and have considered it essential that a scientist should carry out the elementary and routine tasks associated with his work. J. R. Baker, The Scientific Life, p. 29, and P. Freedman, The Principles of Scientific Research, p. 135. J. B. S. Haldane, Science Advances, p. 35, tells the story of C. V. Boys who ‘was once asked why he did not employ a skilled mechanic to help him in constructing apparatus. He replied that his ideas only got into shape as the constructional work proceeded and that this work helped the thinking process and he would not get on quicker by having it done for him.’Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    ‘For the study of fundamental problems, it is often necessary to shut the practical man out for a considerable time. The far—sighted advisers of the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation saw this; in 1926 a cotton research station was established in Trinidad to study the genetics and physiology of cotton. I had the good fortune to be the first geneticist in that research station. It was clear at the outset that the great advantage of Trinidad was that there were no cotton growers there. Our terms of reference were merely to get to know as much about the genetics and physiology of cotton as possible, regardless of whether the knowledge acquired appeared to be of use or not.’ (S. C. Harland, ‘Recent Progress in the Breeding of Cotton for Quality’, Journal of the Textile Institute, Conference Issue, Feb. 1955.)Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    Quoted from R. M. Lodge, Economic Factors in the Planning of Research, Nov. 1954.Google Scholar
  4. 1.
    R. B. Mooney and J. J. Gray, ‘I.GI.’s New Titanium Process’, I.C.I. Magazine, Jan. 1956.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Jewkes, David Sawers and Richard Stillerman 1969

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Jewkes
  • David Sawers
  • Richard Stillerman

There are no affiliations available

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