R&D laboratories take on challenges of terrorism, energy, and communications in the new millennium.


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Image: R&D 100 Archive

The first decade of the new millennium proved to be one of controversy, conflict, crisis, and communications. Even the name for the decade, the "00s" versus the "aughts" stirred contention.

World, economic, and political events created situations that were far more serious. The September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, bombings in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005, and the Mumbai attacks in 2008 accelerated a global war on terror. While some R&D 100 Awards recognized technologies to detect chemicals, biochemicals, nuclear materials, and dangerous cargo, the number of awards for safety and security products remained stable versus the previous decade (Figure 1).


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Figure 1. R&D 100 Award Winners (2000 to 2009) by product category. Source: R&D 100 Archive

Some of the most destructive and deadly natural disasters occurred during the decade. The Southeast Asia earthquake and tsunami left an estimated 230,000 people dead or missing across the Indian Ocean region. A similar number of people died worldwide in other disasters. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast of the United States in 2005, the most active year on record for tropical storms. Nature's wrath demonstrated that it is a formidable foe. However, for the decade, the environmental technologies winning R&D 100 Awards were about half the total won in the 1990s.

Award-winning energy technologies reached an all-time high in the decade, driven by skyrocketing energy costs and the search for alternate sources of energy.

Science and technology had some notable achievements, including the Mars Exploration Rover mission; the discovery of a significant supply of water on the Moon; the continuous inhabitation of the International Space Station; the completion of the Human Genome Project; and the construction of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Laboratory equipment technologies to support this research posted a record number of R&D 100 wins.

Table 1: IR/R&D 100 Award Winners by Organization (2000 to 2009)
Organization Wins (All divisions or business units)
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 47
Oak Ridge National Laboratory 44
Los Alamos National Laboratory 40
Sandia National Laboratories 36
Argonne National Laboratory 33
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 29
Battelle Memorial Institute 28
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory 27
Hitachi Ltd. 23
National Renewable Energy Laboratory 21
Bruker 18
Idaho National Laboratory 17
Toyota Motor Corp. 17
National Energy Technology Laboratory 14
Mitsubishi Electric Corp. 12
Southwest Research Institute 12
Carl Zeiss 11
U.S. Army 11
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 10
Dow Chemical Co. 8
National Institute of Standards & Technology 8
Brookhaven National Laboratory 7
Electric Power Research Institute 7
Iowa State University 7
U.S. Dept. of Energy 7
Lockheed Martin 6
Mettler Toledo 6
University of California, Berkeley 6
CEM Corp. 5
IBM Corp. 5
Material and Electrochemical Research (MER) Corp. 5
Ohio Soybean Council 5
Phenomenex Inc. 5
PPG Industries 5
U.S. Air Force 5
Companies with five or more wins. Source: R&D 100 Archive

The Internet continued to change the way people communicated and business was conducted. The proliferation of smartphones and Web-based technologies fueled the growth of communications and software technologies recognized as R&D 100 winners.


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Figure 2. R&D 100 Award Winners (2000 to 2009) by organization type. Source: R&D 100 Archive

Behind the numbers
Federally funded research laboratories continued to dominate the leaderboard of winners, a reflection of the number of entries submitted by these organizations. A closer look at the numbers shows an actual decrease in the representation of the national laboratories in the total distribution of winning organizations (Figure 2). In the 1990s, government-based research organizations represented 29% of the developers and co-developers of R&D 100 Award winners. In the 2000s, that number dropped to 25%. Academic institutions represented 9% of the winners list, up from 6% in the 1990s.

The real story, however, is that the number of organizations receiving R&D 100 Awards in the decade jumped 18%, an indication of an increase in collaboration and joint efforts needed to develop ever more complex technologies.

Table 2: Top 20 IR/R&D 100 Award Winners by Organization (1963 to 2009)
Organization Wins (All divisions or business units)
General Electric Co. 169
NASA 167
Oak Ridge National Laboratory 144
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 125
Los Alamos National Laboratory 107
Argonne National Laboratory 103
Sandia National Laboratories 89
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 74
Varian Medical Systems 74
Hitachi Ltd. 70
Dow Chemical Co. 66
National Institute of Standards & Technology (National Bureau of Standards) 65
Westinghouse Electric Corp. 65
DuPont 47
Toyota Motor Corp. 46
Hewlett-Packard 42
Union Carbide 40
Horiba Instruments Inc. 36
RCA 34
Perkin-Elmer 32
Source: R&D 100 Archive