Innovation Research Interchange (formerly the Industrial Research Institute) is an inclusive membership organization with hundreds of global members in private-sector companies and federally funded laboratories. Founded in 1938, we lead and advance the field of innovation management by creating contemporary practices. Some of the world’s most widely adopted models – such as “open innovation,” “front end of innovation,” and “stage-gate” – were born from the work of our members. We value strength in cooperation and partner with other organizations at the forefront of developments in innovation management, creating a hub for all to convene and contribute in an experimental, noncompetitive, and noncommercial environment. The IRI is a division of the National Association of Manufacturers.
Fourteen companies comprised the original membership of IRI when it was formed in 1938, under the auspices of the National Research Council (NRC). Four of these companies retain membership today: Colgate-Palmolive Company, Procter & Gamble Company, Hercules Powder Company (now Ashland, Inc.), and UOP, LLC, formerly known as Universal Oil Products (acquired by Honeywell). Four of the first five presidents were from the six charter-member-company category.
Maurice Holland, then Director of the NRC Division of Engineering, was largely responsible for bringing together about 50 representatives from industry, government, and universities to an initial organizational meeting in February 1938 in New York City. IRI was an integral part of the National Research Council until 1945, when it separated to become a non-profit membership corporation in the State of New York. However, association with the Council continues unbroken.
At the founding meeting, several speakers stressed the need for an association of research directors—something different from the usual technical society—and that the benefits to be derived would depend on the extent of cooperation by its members. The greatest advantage, they said, would come through personal contacts with members of the group—still a major characteristic of IRI.
In more recent years, the activities of IRI have broadened considerably. IRI now offers services to the full range of innovation professionals in the United States and abroad.
In 2013, IRI celebrated its 75th anniversary with a series of events to recognize the impact of its members’ contributions to R&D and innovation in the past and look toward the future of the industry. Here you’ll find a detailed timeline featuring the history of IRI, recaps of its milestone events, and first-hand testimonials from IRI members.