“Imagination at work” (General Electric, 2010, para. 3) is the slogan for General Electric’s research and development arm, GE Research. The company has lived up to this phrase if the number of innovations and patents coming from it are anything to go by. Edison, one of the company’s researchers, quips that “imagination = innovation”. This statement is proved by the determination of this company to solve the world’s biggest challenges using state-of-the-art technology. The team believes that it is possible to change the world, at least for the better, and they are doing exactly that, albeit “one step at a time” (Bullis, 2009, para. 2).
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GE Global Research, according to Anderson (2009, p5), is the research and development center of General Electric, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and suppliers of electronic products. However, it is important to note that the products of this company are many and diverse; from jet engines to health care equipment, from computer chips to energy products like turbines and generators, to name but a few.
The success of this firm can be attributed to decisions made by the strategic managers. These decisions are far-reaching, and some of the most notable are the bundling of technology resources which has led to an enhanced competitive advantage in the research field. The success story of the research firm is a living testimony of the distinctive competence that is accrued to it by the deployment of resources. Note the term “resources” as used in this context is far encompassing. It includes human as well as technological resources.
Organization of Technology Resources at GE Global Research and Competitive Advantage
Functional strategies, which are also referred to as operational strategies, involve the process of making decisions that are aimed at improving the functional units of various facets of the company. One of the processes, production operations strategies, creates and provides goods and services that involve the conversational of the company resources into purposeful outputs (David, 2008, p78). This is to ensure that the clients are supplied with the goods and services as per their demands (Coulter, 2008, p87).
This same trend is observable in GE Global Research. There appear to be deliberate, purposeful management of resources, both technological and human expertise resources, by the firm to meet the demands of the clients. This is evidenced by the number of innovations that continue to roll out of the laboratories in Niskayuna, New York, and the other subsidiaries located in various parts of the world. They include laboratories located in Bangalore India, Shanghai in China, and Munich, Germany. The products are aimed at addressing the various needs of the consumers, from low carbon-emitting jet engines to energy-efficient turbines for power generation (Bullis, 2009, para.4).
The company has used several strategies that are easily discernible in bundling the technological resources. It has one of the best brains in the scientific field working for it as researchers and innovators. A case in point is Ivar Giaever, a Nobel laureate. This scientist won a Nobel Prize in Physics in the year 1973, following his discoveries made while he was an employee in GE Global Research in 1960 (Anderson, 2009, p20). This is just one instance of the range of profiles of the firm’s employees.
The list of employees and scientists in this company reads like a list of who is who in their respective fields. They include Dave Deaben, an affiliate, the lead engineer, Xuefang Wang, senior chemist Slawomir Rubinsztajn among others (Anderson, 2009, p7) (note that this list was as it stood in November 2009. some details might have changed since then). According to Bullis (2009, para. 8), the firm employees include at least one thousand Ph.D. holders, making it one of the few places in the world where you can find such a concentration of brains. At least 2,600 research scientists are employed by the firm around the world (General Electric, 2010, para. 5).
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Another indicator of the organization of technological resources in the firm is the sheer investment that it makes in research and development. Bullis (2009, para. 3) estimates that the firm uses at least six billion dollars in research efforts every year. 1.5 billion dollars from this kitty is dedicated to the “clean tech” project (Bullis, 2009, para. 3). The latter is an annual endeavor that is aimed at coming up with clean sources of energy such as wind turbines, hybrid locomotives, low carbon emission engines, and other efforts.
Some of these efforts are strategic responses and reactions to societal dynamics. For example, the Waxman-Markey energy and climate change bill seeks to put a cap on carbon emissions from factories, vehicles, and other sources of pollution such as jet engines (Bullis, 2009, para. 7). GE Global Research reacted to this by investing in nuclear energy research, given that nuclear is a clean source of energy.
The efforts made by the strategic managers at GE Global Research seem to be paying off. The number of patents that are lodged by scientists based here makes it one of the largest patent-holding companies in the world. In 2009, 2,537 patent applications in the world were from researchers working in this company (General Electric, 2010, para. 4). General Electric, the mother lode of GE Global Research, celebrated its centennial anniversary in 1978 (General Electric, 2010, para. 4). Apart from this fete, the company was awarded its 50,000th patent the same year (General Electric, 2010, para. 4). This made it a first in history to achieve this. The achievement can be attributed to the efforts of researchers at GE Global Research, a further indication of the benefits of strategic technological resource deployments here.
The company also has one of the strongest competitive advantages in the industry. This, again, is attributable to the strategic deployment of resources as indicated above. For example, it was picked, from a multitude of hundreds, to host the Battery Technology Symposium in 2008. This was a function that brought together hundreds of entrepreneurs in the energy sector, government officials, and other high-profile figures to discuss the future of energy storage in a battery (General Electric, 2010, para. 4). This was in recognition of development by researchers in this firm of an energy storage battery for the transport industry.
In 2009, the firm was picked by the country’s Department of Energy as part of forty-six Energy Frontier Research Centers in the United States of America (Anderson, 2009, p78). This is a multi-million dollar undertaking aimed at coming up with efficient and renewable energy to power the economy. GE Global Research has been tasked with the duty of coming up with a zero-carbon emission feature for advanced energy storage development. This was in recognition of the strategic technological resource deployment in the company which has given it a competitive advantage over other companies in the sector.
GE Global Research has effectively bundled its technology resources to emerge as one of the most competitive advantaged firms in the research and development sector. This involves the retention of some of the most qualified scientists in the world to huge investments in research and development.
Anderson, A. (2009). GE Global Research: Company Description. New York: McGraw-Hill, 38-39.
Bullis, K. (2009). GE is pushing the smart grid and thin-film solar, but don’t expect new kinds of nuclear reactors. Web.
Coulter, M. (2008). Strategic Management in Action. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
David, F. (2009). Strategic Management Concepts and Cases.12th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
General Electric. (2010). GE Global Research: Imagination at work. Web.