Research project management

Research and development is highly speculative at the best of times. It is imperative for firms engaging in R&D to carefully consider how they undertake new projects, or expand or abandon, existing ones.

From the outset, R&D must dovetail with a firm’s conceptual business strategy. The nature of this dovetail will determine how each effort is managed by the organization: is it assigned on a portfolio basis to existing R&D departments within an existing reporting structure? Or is it a stand-alone project whose head reports directly to a senior executive or committee?

Regardless of its organizational/managerial relationship with the sponsoring firm, an R&D project requires strong management from start to finish, particularly if it is an industry-academic collaboration. There must be thorough alignment of the strategic objectives throughout the entire project team; this requires strong communication of those objectives at every turn.

There must also be sound knowledge—again, throughout the entire project organization—of both the Work Breakdown Structure (the actual tasks the team must complete) and the Creativity Breakdown Structure (the academic and other disciplines that can spur creative breakthroughs).

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