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Who conducts research on novel materials and technologies

Who conducts research ? Who pays for it ?

Research on novel materials – and research in general – is conducted by several subjects: – On the public side, research is done at universities, research institutes, engineer and polytechnical schools, space agencies, etc… – On the private side, research is conducted by companies and industries with interest in packaging, but also having other interests in material science, from automobile to construction to medical devices, and so on.

As we already mentioned before, it is important to understand that research is expensive, no matters if it is for a good cause and for the benefit of all, or for improving the quality of something, or for making better business. Laboratory research is particularly expensive as compared to statistic, epidemiology or computer programming, since laboratory research requires expensive tools and instruments, costly reagents and/or standards and materials, and employs highly qualified professionals.

Scientists that work in public research laboratories aim for publications, patents, academic careers, and carry out research for the benefit of all. Usually have limited funds and they are bound to use the funds they have for the purpose they were given for. Although they could (in theory), they cannot do research on whatever they want or what is considered more useful: they have to do research on what they got support for.

Industry research also costs a lot, but these are considered internal costs. Since industries are rather focused on in improving quality, optimizing production, satisfying their costumers, protecting their brand, patents and business, they logically prefers not to disclose their objectives and results, and aim for results that favour their expectations and economic interests. Legitimately, of course.

In between, there are private analysis laboratories; these simply don’t do research. They only do testing as client services, on a pay-for-service basis. They don’t need to know what the purpose is, and costs are relatively high. So, they can be very useful occasionally, but it is unrealistic to do research using private laboratories.

To simplify the issue:

Public researchers are active for their own prestige and that of science, seek publications and possibly careers. They are relatively independent as compared to industry researchers, but also less business oriented and don’t have to directly please any consumer. They are rather interested in publishing their finding, file a patent and get recognized for these.

Companies and industries do research for their own interests, to optimize procedures, to reduce costs, to increase their business, to improve their image, to please consumers.

The scenario is as follows: Those laboratories that can perform independent research have small budgets and need to abide to those that provide support, but on certain themes and subjects, and for a limited time. Labortories in companies and industries can spend more money and don’t need to write projects or ask for grant money. But, they are bound to work for what is in the interest of the company (legitimately) and have no specific committment in public interest, open publications, dissemination of their results.

How can citizens have independent research for the benefit of all?

There is no easy solution. Those who have money (industries and governments) should spend it for research, that however should remain independent and honest, free of conflict of interests.

Governments could do this, however they have to be careful on spending public money for research, considering that they should then defend their choices and expenses in front of public opinion, and considering that the results and potential benefits may become visible only after several years.

Industries could do this only if they have some economic incentives, such as tax benefits. Otherwise they will legitimately continue their own internal research. Perhaps the way to proceed will be together. In the ideal world…

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