Research - Career Paths for Innovation

Completed October 2017


Today's Innovation Leaders (RTM article)

2017 Member Summit Final Report Out

Project Charter

Statement of Opportunity

‘R&D’ and ‘innovation’ are often used interchangeably, but function differently across different organizations.  A better understanding of key R&D functions, their competencies, and how they relate to innovation will be beneficial for those looking to develop within these functions.  



The project looked to gain a better understanding of the relationship between R&D and innovation in organizations and how they work together and interact.  In particular the roles in those spaces will be explored and the ways in which individuals can move between them to advance in their careers.  To do this, the project studied several different organizations to determine:

  • the career paths within their R&D and innovation functions;
  • the competencies needed for key roles;
  • where innovation sits in those organizations; and
  • the key functions with which R&D and innovation interact.


Commonalities in the roles and competencies across different types of organizations and models for the relationship between R&D and innovation will be identified. 



  • Literature scan
  • Interviews with consultants, academics, and executive coaches working with R&D and in the innovation space
  • Survey of organizations to determine their career ladder, key posts and basic structure
  • Case studies of a variety of organizations
    • Organizations representing a variety of organizational structures will be selected and individuals representing various levels and functions in the organization will be interviewed.


  • Organizations have a set mechanism for individuals to advance their careers in the organization (e.g. a career ladder).
  • Organizations will be able to identify where (or with whom) ‘innovation’ sits.

Key      Definitions

  • Innovation (as a function):  The innovation function is most often not defined as such in organizations.  Activities that it would be expected an innovation function would cover include:  determines the organization’s innovation strategy; makes the customer or market connection; defines business impact and value.
  • R&D function:  typically charged with the execution of innovation; includes technology and product development
  • Career ladder:  a set pathway for individual advancement (management vs. technical)

 In Scope

  • Organizational structure


Out of Scope

  • Judgements of which models and competencies are ‘best’ or most effective.
  • Maturity of organizations’ R&D or innovation functions


Report out at Member Summit 2017 and RTM article

Milestones and timeframe

December – January:  Develop interview protocol, interviewee list, and conduct literature scan

February – May:  Interviews, survey, begin case studies

Research Remix, February 22 – 24:  Seek feedback from membership on CTO role

Annual Meeting, May 8 – 10:  Provide update to membership

June:  Complete case studies and review data

July – August:  Analyze data

September:  Prepare for report out

Member Summit, October 3- 5:  Final report out

October – December:  Write RTM article

January 1, 2018:  Submit article to RTM

Team Members

Edgewell, Church & Dwight, Crown Packaging, Eastman Chemical, GSK, Boeing, Eastman Chemical, Entegris, Kalypso, Coca-Cola, W.L. Gore, Danaher