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Corporate Research Leadership: A Personal Perspective

Dr. Peter Hart


Managing industrial research may be among the most challenging tasks in the corporate world: Distant goals are often hard to define in concrete terms, objective measurement of payoffs is frequently problematic, and opportunity costs are difficult to evaluate.

To operate effectively in this challenging environment, it’s helpful to have multiple perspectives on key leadership responsibilities such as: How do you frame the relationship between a corporate research center and the parent corporation? How do you construct the research agenda? How do you know when a project or research area should be ended? And perhaps most importantly, how do you create and maintain a healthy and vibrant R & D culture? I’ll suggest a number of ways to think about these issues, based on the perspectives that I’ve found helpful in leading corporate R & D activities. To frame the context, I’ll also briefly review the history of corporate information technology research in the US and offer a perspective on current challenges.


Peter E. Hart has contributed to the theory, practice, and leadership of artificial intelligence and information technology for more than 40 years. His theoretical analyses and algorithmic inventions underlie some of the most widely used procedures in modern computing, such as the procedure that computes driving directions for you and computes the paths of characters in most video games. He led the development of SHAKEY, the world’s first mobile, autonomous robot, now on display in the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA, and a member of the Robot Hall of Fame at Carnegie-Mellon University. He led the development of the world’s first expert system having demonstrable commercial effectiveness. And he developed and delivered commercial software solutions having multi-million dollar licensing fees.

Along the way he founded and/or led half a dozen companies and international research centers.

Hart has co-authored one of the most-cited textbooks in the field of computer science, and holds more than 70 US and foreign patents.

Peter Hart received a Ph.D. from Stanford University, and is a Fellow of the IEEE, the ACM, and the AAAI. He currently is an independent consultant on technology and innovation strategy, and also serves as Chairman of Ricoh Innovations, Inc., a company he founded in 1997.

More information is available at

Dr. Peter Hart Headshot
Dr. Peter Hart
Ricoh Innovations
EEB 105
30 Mar 2010, 10:30am until 11:30am