Monday, April 03, 2006

Bell Labs and industrial research

Well, it's finally happened: my friends at Bell Labs are going to be learning to speak French, since Lucent and Alcatel are merging (as "equals", of course). What this means for Bell Labs is unclear. Since they do a fair bit of DOD work, at least part of the labs will have to be operated by an American-owned spinoff of some kind. This would further fragment the research organization, which was already split by the spinoff of Agere (motto: Welcome to Agere, Bell Labs researchers - here's your lay-off paperwork.) and the hemorrhaging of personnel, particularly in the physical sciences.

The continued shrinking of industrial research in the US is extremely depressing. There are things that can be done in an industrial research environment that just don't work well at a university. With the prevailing attitude that any research directed at long-term (say > 5 years) goals is effectively a waste of money unless it pumps up the stock price right now, it's no wonder that we're facing tough times in terms of competitiveness. I believe this is the equivalent of "eating the seed corn."

No comments: