On our recent Field Study visit to Microsoft Research, Peter Lee showed one of those slides that had everyone in the group suddenly reaching for their phones to snap a picture. Dr. Lee is corporate vice president of Microsoft Research; he previously ran a major technology office for the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
With permission, we’re sharing the image here. It shows the different kinds of future-focused work that Microsoft Research allocates resources to. (You can click the image to enlarge it.)
The lower-left quadrant is mission-focused, which means work requested by other organizations within Microsoft.
The lower-right quadrant is sustaining technologies, which means a focus on continuous improvement of existing software testing tools, for example, or machine translation capabilities.
The upper-left quadrant is disruptive, which means a focus on new, surprising, and inventive work that can propel the company forward.
The upper-right quadrant, blue sky, really refers to open-ended, curiosity-driven research that pushes the frontiers. One example: Microsoft’s investment in quantum computing research.
Last fiscal year, Microsoft’s research and development budget was $11.4 billion. It has been estimated that Microsoft’s investment in basic and applied research, essentially the budget for Microsoft Research, is about five percent of that total R&D investment. Additional background about Microsoft’s research approach and initiatives can be found here.