After a Brian Arthur lecture last night at Global Business Network (GBN, now part of Monitor Group), we adjourned to dinner, where the question came up about the demise of "Big R" such as Bell Labs and XeroxPARC. Both Arthur and David Liddle at the table had been at PARC during the "heyday" which they said was 1972-1982 (altho Arthur thought the best work was actually in the mid- to late-eighties, when he was there).
Liddle proferred the idea that only large, monopolistic companies have been able over time to support "Big R" and when the monopoly fails (with the AT&T consent decree in 1984, for example, or the success of HP LaserJet and other incursions into Xerox's main lines), the game is mostly up. He was more sanguine than, for example, Judy Estrin (or me for that matter) about the way in which Venture Capital is actually providing a more efficient research model for academics to get their great ideas capitalized. Arthur's clever retort was to say that in Sacramento it is pronounced "Cah-Pit'-al-ized"
The reason to include this in an HP story blog was that Liddle offered, unsolicited, that HPLabs has been the most singularly successful "R" lab in the world over time, in terms of actually transforming the parent company, as well as in keeping a "low profile" and not setting the "R" expectations particularly high. Music to my ears!