PILOT - Tackling complex challenges

In 2021, IRI’s flagship research program, Research on Research (ROR), turns 50.  To commemorate 50 years of outstanding research in the field of innovation management, we will be featuring groundbreaking content from ROR each week in our member updates.  Browse past ROR content.

Interested in working with IRI members to tackle key challenges?  

Apply for up to $3,000 through IRI's PILOT Funding Scheme.  IRI’s goal for this initiative is to get SMEs working with our members on well thought out, organized projects that will address the top challenges our members face.  The deadline for applications for 2021 is January 22.  Please contact Lee Green for details.

Watch the pitch videos from our current projects:




When IRI members have complex challenges, PILOT swoops in!

The PILOT Team will help you:

  • Connect with other members facing the same challenge.
  • Select and deploy the right tools to dive into the challenge.
  • Create deliverables to share with your team.

How it works:

  1. IRI connects you with other members in the same boat, forming a working group.
  2. IRI guides you through the research process, organizing and advising, while members of the working group provide intellectual input.
  3. The working group creates a deliverable to share with their teams and the rest of the IRI membership.

To learn more, check out this infographic, go in depth with these explainer slides, or check out this short podcast.

Current Projects

Ideation to H2 Opportunity Portfolio Sign up to learn more
Brilliant Failures Sign up to receive updates
R&D in the 'New Normal' Sign up to learn more.
Organizing Slack Time for Innovation Sign up to learn more
Encouraging Autonomy and Empowering R&D Teams Sign up to learn more
Driving Efficiency/Speed to Market Sign up to receive updates 
Corporate Entrepreneurship Sign up to learn more


In the pipeline:

Benchmarking surveys Suggest a topic.
IRI archives deep dives Suggest a theme.
Roundtable discussions Suggest a topic.


Recent work:

Challenge: How can we better recruit and retain early career technical talent?
How we addressed it:

Literature scan, survey of early career professionals, case studies


video report out, RTM article, PDF brochure of findings, roundtable presentations

Top Takeaways:

Early and later career professionals mostly want similar things; the biggest differences with early career technical talent are a desire for:

  • Quicker rotation through projects and roles
  • Continuous feedback


Challenge: What metrics should we use for our innovation dashboards?
How we addressed it:

Virtual roundtable discussions, member survey

Deliverables: Report (slide deck), webinar
Top Takeaways:
  • Project-level information reported on innovation dashboards includes metrics on:  potential project value, project’s risk level, and project success. 
  • The metrics rated as most effective for assessing project status are fairly traditional project management metrics (e.g., whether the project is meeting its milestones).
  • Highly rated project risk metrics cover commonly identified areas of innovation project risk: technology risk, market risk, and execution risk.


Challenge: What is Big Data and how is it going to impact how we do R&D?
How we addressed it: Literature review, thought leader interviews, case studies

Big Data Primer, RTM Article on Big Data and R&D Management (including maturity matrix), Research Note: Big Data and R&D Management, Digitalization and R&D: Big Data blog, Digitalization and R&D: Big Data Report Out (video)

Top Takeaways:

Big Data, or ‘uncomfortable data’ as the group dubbed it, will impact R&D management through changes in how R&D is informed, enabled, and disrupted or transformed.  They created a maturity matrix looking at how strategy, people, technology, and process integration would all be impacted in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, food and beverage, high tech, energy, chemicals, health care and pharmaceuticals, and government.


Pilot Steering Committee

This committee supports all PILOT activities, including working groups, from inception through dissemination.  Committee members work collaboratively to experiment in processes and methods to identify best practices; provide means for idea generation to keep the pipeline full and relevant; and actively investigate mechanisms for timely, accessible and actionable deliverables.

  • Kent Young, Senior Director of Technology, Sherwin-Williams (chair)
  • Marina Despotopoulou, R&D Director, Arkema
  • Sam Immordino, Director, Building Science, USG
  • Keith Keller, R&D Manager, Milliken
  • Stewart Mehlman, Director, SKM Direction, IRI Emeritus
  • Joel Schall, Director, Technology and Innovation, Henkel
  • Jim Wilkinson, Managing Director, Platform Engineering, Applied Materials
  • Marcie Zaharee, Project Leader MITRE Innnovation Program, MITRE


A Research-on-Research (ROR) Subcommittee was appointed by the IRI Board of Directors in 1968, following an unsuccessful effort to convince the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish centers for research-on-research at universities in the United States. The subcommittee concluded that research-on-research was important enough to the interests of the Institute that the idea should be initiated without the support of NSF. Thus, a regular standing committee of IRI was created in 1971 to carry out research on the process of research in industry.

ROR was rolled into PILOT in January 2018 in tandem with the association’s rebranding to Innovation Research Interchange.

Research Document Center

Project Proposal Form

PDF icon Proposal Evaluation Criteria

PDF icon Co-Chair Guidelines

PDF icon Project Plan Diagram

Microsoft Office document icon Project Charter Template

PDF icon Member Survey Application

PDF icon RTM Writing Guide for IRI Research Groups