Research and Development

Dresher, W. H. ; Themelis, N. J.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 17
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
Research is probably the least understood and the most underrated or overrated, depending on the circumstances, function of the corporate enterprise. Some companies become engaged in research because they consider it to be vital to their very existence, others in order to develop new business, and some with no clearer objective than to keep up with the competition. Whole new industries have resulted from research activities, such as the Xerox copier, the transistor, the computer, and have affected considerably our way of life. Companies have prospered or perished by pursuing the successes or failures of their research organizations. However. despite the tremendous effect that research has had on our modern civilization and the billions which are spent on it annually, we have not as yet been able to develop many hard and fast rules as to how to conduct it effectively and to a successful end.1 This section discusses the role of research in the United States and in the mineral industry and describes a few of the criteria and guidelines which have been developed to assist in increasing the probability for success in industrial research. Broadly speaking, the purpose of industrial research is to make a significant contribution to the long-term viability and the profitability of the sponsoring company. The sum total of technological developments has been a principal factor in establishing the United States as a world leader and the controlling element in the nation's balance of trade with foreign powers. The international aspect of most mineral commodities is a significant factor in the business decision-making of most domestic mining companies and should be an important factor in the operation of research and development (R & D) programs in these companies. The National Science Board has reported that in recent yean other nations have been gaining on the United States over practically the entire range of science. 2,3 On the positive side, the NSB reported a strong position for the US in the results derived from its investment in R & D. If the United States is to maintain a favorable trade balance, it must create new know-how through technological innovation in order to create new industrial products, processes, and services for which there is a global demand. As expressed by Chauncey Starr, president of the Electric Power Research Institute, "Unlike resources found in nature, technology is a man-made resource whose abundance can be continuously increased, and whose importance in determining the world's future is also increasing."' In recent years, the greatly in- creased pressures for environmental quality and energy conservation have enhanced further the role of technical innovation in insuring the future survival of the domestic industry. Technology is the challenge of American industry, and it is a challenge which the mineral industry must also accept, for processed minerals are the very raw materials and energy on which all of industry is based, it is technology which makes a mineral deposit into an ore reserve. The Natural of Industrial R D Research is usually thought of as being either basic or applied. Basic or fundamental research is the quest for knowledge and need not have any practical objective. Applied research is the search for a solution to a particular problem and therefore has a specific objective beyond the acquisition of new knowledge. Development is the next stage to the applied research experimentation and it generally consists of larger-scale tests to establish the technical and economic feasibility of the new process or product and to provide design information for its industrial implementation. The terms research and development are usually interconnected for the good reason that in many cases it is difficult to define where one ends and the other begins. For instance, in many cases, thermodynamic, kinetic, corrosion, and other research studies, which are needed to provide design data for an industrial plant, may prod in parallel with the pilot plant activities preparatory for this plant in order to conserve time. Often the final stages of a development project may involve the trial production of a new product for markeing tests or the trial operation of a new process on a "semi-industrial" scale pilot plant. Such operations may be termed "demonstrations"; hence, more
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