Information, environment, energy, and consumer products gain prominence as R&D 100 Award winners in the 1990s.

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R&D 100 Archieve

The 1990s started with a recession and ended with impeachment proceedings for U.S. President Bill Clinton and worries about the Y2K programming glitch. During the decade, information came of age as the general public embraced digital technologies such as smaller cell phones and the emerging "World Wide Web". The R&D 100 Awards reflected this growing interest in the digital world, with more winning entries in information technologies and software. Animation programs, computer-aided design, data storage tools, and modeling programs were among the products recognized.

The nation experienced its longest period of economic expansion during the decade as personal incomes doubled. Some disposable income was spent on entertainment products developed during the time frame. The Kodak Photo CD (1991), Digital Compact Cassette Player/Recorder from Philips Consumer Electronics (1993), and ATSC Digital Television Standard—better known as HDTV (1998)— were some leading consumer products that were R&D 100 winners.


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Figure 1: R&D 100 Award Winners (1990 to 1999) by product category. Source: R&D 100 Archive.

The types of products that received R&D 100 Awards in the 1990s evolved; a broader range of technology types were selected as winners. Consumer products, environmental and energy technologies, and thin film/vacuum were more popular than in previous decades.

Safety and security products also increased, perhaps in response to the 1993 World Trade Center and 1995 Oklahoma City terrorist attacks.

Life sciences advances continued to emerge with the start of the Human Genome Project and the birth of Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal. Two leading drug therapies were recognized with R&D 100 Awards: the Nicoderm anti-smoking patch (1992) and Taxol anticancer drug (1993).

Table 1: R&D 100 Award Winners by Organization (1990 to 1999)
Organization Wins (All divisions or business units)
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 50
Los Alamos National Laboratory 49
Oak Ridge National Laboratory 48
Sandia National Laboratories 41
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 37
Argonne National Laboratory 24
Toyota Inc. 20
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 19
Electric Power Research Institute 18
Idaho National Engineering Laboratory 17
National Institute of Standards & Technology 16
National Renewable Energy Laboratory 14
Hitachi Ltd. 13
Iowa State University 13
Battelle Memorial Institute 12
Bell Communications Research 12
Mitsubishi Electic Corp. 11
U.S. Army 11
DuPont Co. 10
U.S. Air Force 10
Ames Laboratory 9
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory 9
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. 9
Brookhaven National Laboratory 8
Eastman Kodak Co. 8
Ford Motor Co. 8
Southwest Research Institute 8
Aesop Inc. 7
U.S. Bureau of Mines 7
Varian Associates 7
Westinghouse Electric Corp. 7
General Motors Corp. 6
Keithley Instruments Inc. 6
BOC Group Inc. 5
Dow Chemical Co. 5
Empire State Electric Energy Research Co. 5
Hewlett-Packard Co. 5
IBM Corp. 5
PG Industries Inc. 5
University of Tennessee 5
Companies with five or more wins. Source: R&D 100 Archive

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Figure 2. R&D 100 Award Winners (1990 to 1999) by organization type. Source: R&D 100 Archive.

The 1990s were also a prosperous time for developed nations, including Japan. Toyota garnered 20 R&D 100 awards for automotive technologies. The total moved the company on to the top 20 list of all time winners.

National labs emerge
The 1990s saw the continuation of winning technologies funded by the federal government. National laboratories dominated the list of top winners (Table 1); technologies were often developed in conjunction with private businesses. Industrial organizations continued to lead with more than 60% of all awards (Figure 2).

Space exploration made major advances. The Hubble telescope was launched; construction began on the International Space Station; and NASA's Pathfinder landed on Mars and deployed a roving vehicle.

Back on Earth, NASA continued to close the gap to the lead position of most R&D 100 wins, adding 37 wins in the decade.

Table 2: Top 20 IR/R&D 100 Award Winners by Organization (1990 to 1999)
Organization Wins (All divisions or business units)
General Electric Co. 164
NASA 117
Oak Ridge National Laboratory 100
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 78
Varian Associates 72
Argonne National Laboratory 70
Los Alamos National Laboratory 67
Westinghouse Electric Corp. 65
Dow Chemical Co. 58
National Bureau of Standards 57
Sandia National Laboratories 53
Hitachi Ltd. 47
DuPont Co. 46
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 45
Hewlett-Packard Co. 42
Union Carbide Corp. 40
Honeywell Inc. 34
RCA 34
Perkin-Elmer Corp. 32
Toyota Inc. 29
Source: R&D 100 Archive