Academic excitement

The UK academics were truly excited when a large research council awarded them a substantial sum of money to develop a new device.

They realised that, with three years’ hard work, the £200,000 grant would enable them not only to fabricate the device, but also to test it out in a number of real-world scenarios. They felt certain that, if successful, their patented product would reap rewards not only for themselves but for the university’s licensing arm as well.

They also recognised that the many technical papers that they would publish on the technology during the development phase would not only put them in good standing with their peers but also might push them all up several rungs of the academic ladder.

Of course, the UK researchers weren’t the only ones working on such technology. No, researchers in the US and Japan were also fervently at work too, taking similar approaches to developing devices that they believed might work equally as well.

The folks in the research and development arm at the large multinational corporation weren’t oblivious to what was going on the world of academia either and watched the academics’ endeavours with great interest. They too had identified the potential commercial advantages of developing such a new device, and studied each and every academic paper that the university researchers published in the learned journals.

As interesting as the academic research was, however, and as likely as it was to result in the development of a breakthrough device, the senior management at the multinational were only too aware that all the devices that the academics were proposing to create would be extremely expensive because the production technology they had elected to use was not one that was widely used in the industry.

So they charged their own development team to produce a similar product by tweaking the fabrication technology that they were already using to mass produce a number of their existing products. And although that was a formidable request, their engineering team set to work in earnest to see if they could comply.

The race was on to see which outfit might develop a product first and I’m pleased to say that, despite all the international competition, it was the UK academic team that got to the finish line before all the others.

Sadly, however, their triumph was short lived, because just two years later, the marketing folks at the multinational corporation announced to the world that they had developed an equally capable device that would cost just a quarter of the price of the product developed by the academics.

The academics weren’t too upset by the whole affair though. The kudos that they received for their research efforts set them in very good stead with the research organisation, which was only too pleased to award them yet another large grant to develop what they claimed would be another world-beating product.