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R&D, usually focused on the long term, tends to have a dominant psychology that sees itself apart from the day-to-day problems that besiege the company in an inflationary environment. R&D wants stable employment to prevent disrupting ongoing projects, and it doesn’t want to be the pawn of finance. But the new circumstances leave no room for complacency anywhere within the company.
Most R&D resources fall into one of three categories: long-term, “blue sky” projects that may yield important breakthroughs, projects aimed at making incremental changes in products or processes, and projects aimed at using new technologies to change product attributes or processes. A fresh look at the allocation of total R&D resources going forward three to five years is the first step in adjusting to the new environment.
The first priority of R&D in this economy is to focus innovation efforts—above all else—on the continuity of the business, on the products and services that will justify the higher prices that you will demand in the market.
In consultation with the CEO and CFO, R&D leaders must decide which resources and projects are to be preserved and which jettisoned. Remaining projects should be rank-ordered in terms of importance to the company in the post-inflation, post-recession world. And a determination should be made about partnering with other companies on some projects in order to free up research talent to concentrate on critical projects.
Work with marketing to determine which projects can be slowed and which need to be sped up to take advantage of market opportunities and competitive changes.
Be alert to opportunities to bring in new talent that will enable the company to profitably diversify its product offerings or find more efficiencies in operations.