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The new research

Dick Lampman, director of HP Labs, on customer-focused innovation


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Dave Packard (standing with arms crossed) watches as Bill Hewlett takes a closer look at some HP instruments.
By Jamie Beckett, April 2006

If you're among those who picture research labs as places where wild-eyed scientists pursue distant dreams, you might be disappointed by HP Labs.

Although science is plenty important, it's only part of the equation.

" Some people think that you have to make a choice between doing great science and creating real impact. We don't believe that," says Dick Lampman, director of HP Labs and senior vice president for research at HP.

Lampman described this model – what he calls "the new research" – in a recent talk with some 100 executives from MIT's Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership.

"We're trying to create a new type of research and a new type of research person – somebody who is an expert in their field, but who also understands what matters, what technologies are likely to have important impact," he says. Rather than a purely "science-led" model, he says, "our belief is that it has to be an intersection of science and technology."

In the past, researchers worked primarily with HP business units, but increasingly they're collaborating with key customers to gain early insight into future industry needs. For customers, the payoff is access to cutting-edge technologies and sometimes a ‘first-of-its-kind’ solution, delivered with help from HP Services. Successful solutions may eventually become standard HP products.

"We believe that in fast-moving areas, this is a better way to develop technology," Lampman says.

However they're developing technologies, HP Labs researchers have a strong record of technology transfer. HP's first computer architecture came from HP Labs. All three of HP's printing technologies – inkjet, laser and digital commercial printing – were led by Labs or jointly developed with HP businesses. (For more on HP Labs contributions, see Innovations that counted).

" The thing that is not written about the innovation process is the importance of the human fabric," Lampman says. "It's about how you create a risk-taking culture – not foolish risk, but measured risks so that you pursue new opportunities as they emerge and not be late."

Read the full text of the talk or download in PDF fomat.


Jamie Beckett is managing editor of this Web site and a former reporter and editor at The San Francisco Chronicle.

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