Letter: Forget R & D, and innovate instead

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Sir: The league tables on research and development are interesting (Special Report, 9 June) but are they any more helpful than league tables for schools? I doubt it. If absolute spend on R & D were so vital to success, then IBM and Philips might be doing better than they are. The problem with R & D is that most people sense it must have something to do with competitiveness and added value, but only the specialists understand what they are doing.

It can therefore become either a totem for success or an unwanted expense to be minimised at all costs, depending on individual opinion. Those of the latter view will argue that the specialists will always be profligate and not businesslike; those of the former view will have difficulty in knowing how much is necessary or where to focus effort. Neither will perform R & D very effectively.

Let's move the focus to innovation, where it belongs. There were several good examples of innovation in the report, mostly concerning ice lollies. But innovation is about much more than R & D, as Richard Branson and Anita Roddick, for example, have shown. Vision and an enabling organisational structure can assist innovation - in which process R & D may play a part. Who knows, maybe we could even begin to get some handles on competitiveness.

Yours sincerely,

BRUCE TOFIELD

Kenninghall, Norfolk

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