PIRL: Innovation and Research

William Bullock, Joyce Thomas
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign


William Bullock, FIDSA | Joyce Thomas, IDSA
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

The new product development trend in corporate America is increasingly toward market focused, human-centered research and development. In addition to wanting products with all the latest features, consumers have come to expect well designed products that are a joy to own and use. The design bar has been raised. With increased awareness of the benefits of good design along with technological parity worldwide, successful products must not only meet needs they must delight customers.  

Corporations are finding that they can no longer compete on the basis of technology alone. The government is increasingly interested in applying research for a return on investment. Fundamental research and applied research are being blended in an effort to speed the delivery of highly innovative new designs to the marketplace. Given the diversity of expertise required to nurture and guide this process, this is by necessity a team approach  involving many stakeholders.

The interest in product design and development design research across college campuses is widespread. Interdisciplinary collaboration is critical to attaining a competitive edge. This reality requires that academic institutions integrate multiple disciplines in the learning process to prepare students for the complex dynamics of the collaborative product development process. PIRL offers a unique learning environment for students and faculty alike. It is where teaching and research come together. Students learn about collaboration between disciplines, and the methodologies and procedures necessary for the product development process. The value of theoretical knowledge from coursework is learned when it is applied. Faculty fulfill their research obligations to the University. The client gets an applied research deliverable and new insights and knowledge are developed. The University benefits through research funding from major corporations, not-profit organizations and entrepreneurial start-ups. It fosters a synergistic relationship between the academy and industry. This decade of collaborative interactive projects has driven home the importance of teamwork for learning and research.