Community Forum - Organizational Support for R&D

The research & development activities of our company support a very mature chemical process industry.  One support group focuses on developing conceptual process designs to help researchers understand, identify, and investigate variables of greatest technical, economic, or environmental impact for scale-up and commercialization.  We are interested in learning if any of our IRI partners have similar functions.  - Director, Conceptual Engineering, large manufacturing organization


Community Responses

1. Does your organization have a support group that aids researchers in understanding sensitivities of larger scale implementation and evaluation of disruptive technologies?

  • Yes we have a specialist R&D set of leaders who help navigate researchers and PM's.
  • Not a centralized group, but in different streams or business areas.
  • We have a commercial development group that can participate in such evaluations, but we actually lead this within the R&D team.
  • No. We rely on our technology guardians to provide that transfer of knowledge to those that need it.
  • No (two responses)

2. How do you demonstrate value of the support organization (e.g. time/cost savings on supported projects, number of projects progressing past lab-phase in a given period, etc.)?

  • Multiple metrics, tracking value created through deployment, progress through TRL levels i.e. movement towards success.
  • These are managed by the specific innovation process manager with engineering resources for a particular area.
  • If done well, the level of analysis that goes into our decision making process -- particularly around a robust view of the range of outcomes and how we could achieve the upside -- will be superior and lead to efficient decision making and project execution. 

3. How do you influence a research program (e.g. helped generate new ideas, aided direction of or accelerated research, provided data for decision-making, etc.)?

  • We have structured processes at different stages starting with identifying the need, matching ideas to the need then formal project management through the life-cycle and more importantly the end vision state of how do you get it out into our business. 
  • Usually we engage various skill sets from our process innovation organization.
  • Provide better input for decision enabling so that process to go much faster.  Also helping identify ways to minimize the down side risk and raise the ceiling on what could be the upside.  
  • We get the right people together with some pre-work, have a brainstorming session with a good meeting design, and then we adopt a methodology to catalog and prioritize all ideas. Then we do more work on the top ideas to weed more of the ideas out. Hopefully, then we have 2-3 things we can start to have a formal program on.

4. What does a career path look like for engineers doing conceptual design? 

  • Engineer - Senior Engineer - Lead Engineer - Chief Engineer
  • This would be an Subject Matter Expert role that can be entirely within the core central engineering group or variable into operations and back or crossover into management tracks.
  • Can advance in R&D or Ops leadership.
  • Some stay in that function for their entire career. Some go into R&D, some to the manufacturing sites. Some even end up in business/marketing.

5. Are you primarily a service or manufacturing organization? 

All responses:  manufacturing