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What is R&D and Why Does It Matter?

Forbes, N   Wield, D

Science and Public Policy   31 (4) 267-277

January 2004

Most policy-makers, academics and business people still perceive R&D as a single well-defined thing instead of a multi-facetted activity. Even after decades of debate and critique of simplistic notions of what is R&&D, narrow conceptions of R&&D are still prevalent and lead inexorably to inadequate appreciation of the strategic options for increasing or improving R&&D activities. This is an issue for all firms but especially those in follower nations, those that have low human and financial resources available for R&&D. This paper aims to build a picture of the range of R&&D activities, using examples, in the main, from Indian and South Korean companies. A picture is built of high variety, where the key element is catch-up, making the R&&D task quite different to that in leader firms and nations. The paper also begins consideration of the implications for company strategy and public policy, arguing that each must change if follower firms are to improve towards leadership through innovation.