Google has apparently recently started putting an expiration date on mobile-focused research projects in response to concerns that the company is spending too much money on R&D efforts with little to show in return.
Google will give its Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group more funding and a new building to continue working on research projects involving mobile technologies. But most mobile projects are limited to two years after which they are moved into Google, spun off into independent ventures, licensed to others or simply killed off, The Wall Street Journal reported March 31.
The group also has a mandate to replace project managers after two years and hire mostly outside experts to lead research projects.
The Journal described the approach as the brainchild of Regina Dugan, a former head of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and someone who is close to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.
Schmidt himself is reportedly fully supportive of the two-year cap on mobile projects because he sees it as a way to put pressure on researchers to either perform or stop working on projects that don’t deliver, The Journal said.
Google’s ATAP group, which describes itself as a “small band of pirates” is an approximately 100-person group. It has worked on a variety of research projects, including the Ara modular smartphone and Tango, a 3D mapping technology that has been moved to Google’s augmented reality gaming group after competing its two-year period.
Google’s efforts to build more discipline into its projects appears aimed at defusing analyst concerns over the company’s research spending and the value it is getting from those investments, according to The Journal.
Google is currently one of the top spenders on research and development in the technology industry. Last year, the company spent about $8.81 billion on R&D activities.
That puts it just behind Microsoft, which in 2014 spent $10.4 billion on technology R&D, and Intel, which had $10.6 billon in research investments last year.
Google’s challenge now is in showing that the money it spends on research and new projects is worth the investments. Projects like Google Glass, its autonomous car and balloon-powered initiative, smart contact lens, smart home and surgical robotics efforts have garnered considerable press and given it a reputation as a company that is not afraid of taking on long shots.
But the big question is how long it will take the company to recoup the investments it is making in such efforts. For all its forays into different markets and technology areas, Google still remains heavily dependent on its core advertising business. Close to 90 percent of Google’s revenues are still tied to companies paying for clicks on online advertisements on Google properties.