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Google Lab Puts a Time Limit on Innovations

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Norbert Tydingco is an engineer in Go0gle's Advanced Technology and Projects group.

Google is taking a leaner, faster approach to its research and development.

Credit: Laura Morton/The Wall Street Journal

Google is facing increased scrutiny on return on investment from its research and development spending, prompting a leaner, faster approach, especially with mobile-focused initiatives in its Advanced Technology and Projects division.

Most projects in this group are granted a two-year window to prove themselves, after which they are jettisoned, folded into Google, spun off, or licensed to others. Project leaders also are replaced by mainly outside experts at the end of the two years. "We like this model because it puts pressure on people to perform and do relevant things or stop," says Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt. "I've spent an awful lot of time on projects that never end and products that would never ship."

Advanced Technology and Projects founder Regina Dugan says the risks of her lab's projects are offset by the relatively small investments they are given due to time and staff constraints. So far the lab has overseen 11 projects, including a smartphone with switchable components, three-dimensional mapping technology, and interactive animations and short films for smaller phone screens. Initiatives terminated for lack of progress include a project to lower mobile device power consumption.

Meanwhile, Dugan says the short tenure of project leaders often makes them pursue projects with greater urgency.

From The Wall Street Journal
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Abstracts Copyright © 2015 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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