Restructuring the "D" in R&D
Recently we wrote about emerging models for Research (the "R" in R&D) and how the US government can encourage and support them. But what about Development - the “D” in R&D? The majority of spending in R&D is in fact allocated to development, which includes costs associated with market analysis, manufacturing (engineering, quality control, logistics) and advertising. Traditionally, large corporations like Intel, Pfizer and IBM, did both their research and development in-house. However, just as we are seeing a decoupling of research from development, we’re seeing traditionally held beliefs about development being challenged as well through outsourcing, individualization, and automation.
Myth #1: Development is done in factories owned by the company. The good old days when companies manufactured products in their own factories are long gone. For some time now, the trend has been to outsource manufacturing to other companies, especially those in low-cost countries like China. This is unlikely to change. Just take the example of Apple: all its design and marketing is done in the US by 25,000 Apple employees, while all the assembly and manufacturing is done by 250,000 Foxconn employees in China. As Andy Grove wrote in his brilliant article on the unfortunate outsourcing of US manufacturing, “that means for every Apple worker in the U.S. there are 10 people in China working on iMacs, iPods and iPhones.”
Myth #2: Taking a product from research to scale is a development process that only large corporations can undertake. Traditionally, as an individual, the best you could do with your design was to create a very crude prototype and show it to a large company. If you were lucky and the firm executives liked your idea, they would make a refined prototype in their lab and then send it to their factories for mass manufacturing, giving you a tiny fraction as a cut. That model is now changing. For the first time in history, an individual can do everything from sketching his design to making a prototype to manufacturing and distributing it: that’s why the movement is called Do-It-Yourself (DIY). For example, you can design a chair in Google Sketchup (Google’s superb 3D modeling software – free basic version), use a 3D printer Makerbot ($950) to print out a prototype, mail it to a factory in China to mass-produce it and send it to Amazon to distribute. According to WIRED's Chris Anderson, DIY manufacturing is going to be the next industrial revolution: “Anybody with an idea and a little expertise can set assembly lines in China into motion with nothing more than some keystrokes on their laptop.”
Myth #3: The biggest threat to US manufacturing jobs comes from China. Actually, the biggest competitor to the manufacturing labor market comes from robots, not other countries. Not only the U.S., but also Japan, Brazil and India have experienced steep job losses due to automation. Even China is threatened by the increasing use of smart machines. Yet as Robert Reich writes in his article “The future of manufacturing: Here come the robots”, over the past several decades we have experienced a steep decrease in agricultural employment due to mechanization, and the same is inevitable for manufacturing. This is not necessarily a bad thing: it’s an opportunity to learn new skills. “A quarter of all Americans now work in jobs that weren't listed in the Census Bureau's occupation codes in 1967,” Reich points out. So what jobs can one expect then in the manufacturing sector of the future? Repairing robots.
Ayesha and Parag Khanna explore human-technology co-evolution and its implications for society, business and politics at The Hybrid Reality Institute.
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The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.
- Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
- The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
- European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.
- Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
- To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
- They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
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