"The challenge of how to reconcile professional management with a culture of innovation remains for ever a central issue for management thinkers"

These words of the Financial Times (June 2009) is what EIRMA is all about...


EIRMA was established 50 years ago in Paris to create a College in Europe at which scientists would be trained in the art of managing. It now enables and supports the transformation of R&D and Innovation Management by Industrial Corporations operating in Europe.

Here is how it all begun…


The idea that industrial research should be organized and directed like other functions for corporate growth and profitability is over one hundred years old. The Bayer Company established a corporate laboratory in 1891. Its director, Carl Duisberg, justified the proposal “deeply convinced that the capital invested will bear rich fruit” but thereafter complained that he hardly found time for his own research anymore, because of the demands of being a good manager.
In 1920, C.E.K. Mees, who subsequently became Vice-President in charge of Research at the Eastman Kodak Company, wrote a comprehensive book on “The Organisation of Industrial Scientific Research,” reporting a survey of the National Research Council, which counted 462 US companies with 9350 workers engaged in research.

A first association of industrial research directors, the Industrial Research Institute (IRI) was created in the United States 1938. In 1958, under the impression of the management gap with the United States, the Productivity Agency of the Marshall Plan organisation OEEC (predecessor of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, better known as the OECD) suggested the creation of a College somewhere in Europe at which scientists would be trained in the art of managing. In the following years, several seminars were organised in France, Germany and Denmark, at which the heads of research laboratories discussed their methods. The results of these seminars were collated by Alain Pons, then a consultant to the OECD and published under the title "Research Management".


In 1965, the OECD hosted the European/North American Conference on Research Management. Professor Hendrik Casimir, a member of the Board of Management of Philips, chaired the conference. At the time, Dr King (see below) was Director General for Scientific Affairs at the OECD.

A Body Devoted to Industrial Research Management

The conference organisers focused on the need to discuss "only those problems which concern both top management and research, which can give rise to conflicts and disagreement between these two focal points in the administrative hierarchy of the firm." It concluded with a recommendation to form a European body devoted to industrial research management, similar to the Industrial Research Institute. King and the OECD lent their support to this recommendation. Casimir and King jointly contacted all large firms in Europe, inviting them to join the new association. (Read their letter here)


An Independent Not-For-Profit Organisation Was Born

The following year, EIRMA was born as an independent not-for-profit organisation with 32 members, Professor Casimir as founding President, and an OECD secondee, Owen Etoe, as Secretary-Treasurer. Casimir's personal contribution in establishing a strong Association was considerable. When he stepped down as President four years later, EIRMA had almost 100 members represented by the senior officers responsible for R&D within these companies, and an active and successful programme of activities. Owen Etoe left the secretariat, replaced by Klaus Standke, also from the OECD. The number of members continued to grow, before settling down around 150 by 1975.

Working Groups and Focus Group

An original feature of EIRMA's programme was the Working Group of 15 or so people working together over a period of one to two years to report on a key aspect of R&D management. Early Groups studied questions such as “Research bought outside the Firm,” “Patents,” the “Career of the Research Worker,” the “Use of Computers in R&D,” the “Economic Evaluation of R&D Projects,” “University/Research Relations and Research Buildings.” By now, some seventy such groups have been run. Most recently, a group of younger managers has been looking at Global, Open Innovation, with field trips to India, Poland and Hungary. And the 2nd Focus Group aims to boost understanding of how to manage R&D and innovation as global, increasingly “Open” activities, specifically to address opportunities provided by an emerging economy like Brazil. This helps these people see for themselves how work is handled in different parts of the world, thereby preparing them for their own future responsibilities.


  The lead in forming EIRMA within the OECD came from Sir Alexander King, who was Director General for Scientific Affairs at OECD. Sir Alex was one of those towering figures of the 20th Century: a scientist, international civil servant and pioneering environmentalist at the forefront of new thinking about the role of science in public policy. In 1968 he co-founded the Club of Rome, a global think-tank concerned with world problems and the future of humanity. Its honorary members included Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter and Václac Havel. Richard von Weizsäcker, the former President of Germany, once remarked: “The Club of Rome is the conscience of the world.”

In his autobiography, "Let the Cat Turn Round: One Man’s Traverse of the Twentieth Century" (CPTM, London 2006), after explaining the genesis of EIRMA, King expresses praise for EIRMA: "...Now after about 35 years of useful activity, practically every European firm with research capacity is a member. Not only has EIRMA contributed substantially to the quality of industrial research in Europe, but it has continuously brought the implications of changing political, economic, social and technical conditions to the attention of research leaders. Its discussions between colleagues from competing firms are a prime example of the fertile coexistence, co-operation and competition frequently advocated but seldom achieves."
Sir Alex died in February 2007, and his obituary appeared in the Spring 2007 edition of eIQ the former EIRMA member magazine.


The President of EIRMA is elected one year before the end of office of the serving President at the General Assembly accompanying the Annual Conference. The elected President serves as "President Elect" until he takes office as President when elected for the first two-year period. The retiring President serves as "Past President" during one year after leaving office. (Find out more in the statutes).

Since 1966, 23 Presidents have been heading EIRMA:

• 1966-1970 Hendrik B.G. Casimir (Philips)
• 1970-1973 W.J. (Bill) Arrol (Lucas)
• 1973-1975 B. Delapalme (Elf Aquitaine)
• 1975-1977 J. Rutschmann (Sandoz)
• 1977-1979 U. Colombo (Montedison)
• 1979-1981 D.S. Oliver (Pilkington)
• 1981-1983 B. Schmidt (Dornier)
• 1983-1985 Harry Beckers (Shell)
• 1985-1987 J.-P. Causse (Saint-Gobain)
• 1987-1989 H.J. Heller (Ciba-Geigy)
• 1989-1991 R. Junnila (Neste)
• 1991-1993 Eric Spitz (Thomson)
• 1993-1995 Jens Rostrup-Nielsen (Haldor Topsøe)
• 1995-1997 S. Barabaschi (Finmeccanica)
• 1997-1999 Pierre Castillon (Elf Aquitaine)
• 1999-2001 Guy Haemers (Bekaert)
• 2001-2003 Lars-Goran Rosengren (Volvo)
• 2003-2005 J.H. (Hans) de Wit (TNO)
• 2005-2007 Walter Steinlin (Swisscom)
• 2007-2009 Leif Kjærgaard (Danisco)
• 2009-2013 Leopold Demiddeleer (Solvay)
• 2013-2017 Carlos Härtel (GE)
• 2017 - present Ernst Lutz (Gurit)


For many years, the EIRMA Operations Team (it was named "Secretariat" at this time) occupied offices next to the International Chamber of Commerce, near Pont de l'Alma in Paris. It has been renamed and isettled in the 16th Arrondissement of Paris, near the famous Arc de Triomphe. In July 2012 it has moved to Brussels in the European District, near the European Parliament and the European Commission Berlaymont building.

The different Secretary Generals have been:

• Owen Etoe, 1966-1968 (seconded from OECD)
• Klaus Standke, 1969-1974 (seconded from OECD)
• Reinhard Schulz, 1975-1993 (seconded from OECD)
• Bernard Watkinson, 1993-2000 (initially seconded from Lucas)
• Andrew Dearing, 2000-2010
• D. Michel Judkiewicz, 2010-2015
• Michel Crispi, 2015-2020
• Alexandre Nussem, 2020 up to present


by Casimir Hendrik
In 1969, Hendrik Casimir wrote a biographical article about Gilles Holst, the founder and first director of the Philips Research Laboratories. This article, and its description of Holst's approach to leadership in industrial research, still makes very interesting reading Philips Research Reports, 24 (1969) 161-167.


 According to Casimir, Holst’s principles can be summarized in the form of Ten Commandments:

1. Engage competent scientists, if possible young, yet with academic research experience.
2. Do not pay too much attention to the details of the previous experience.
3. Give them a good deal of freedom and give a good deal of leeway to their particular idiosyncrasies.
4. Let them publish and take part in international scientific activities.
5. Steer a middle course between individualism and strict regimentation; base authority on real competence; in case of doubt prefer anarchy.
6. Do not divide a laboratory according to different disciplines but create multidisciplinary teams.
7. Give the research laboratories independence in choice of subjects but see to it that leaders and staff are thoroughly aware of their responsibility for the future of the company.
8. Do not try to run the research laboratories on a detailed budget system and never allow product divisions’ budgetary control over research projects.
9. Encourage transfer of competent senior people from the research laboratories to the development laboratories of product divisions.
10. In choosing research projects, be guided not only by market possibilities, but also by the state of development of academic science.

Most of these principles still seem very relevant although some have changed to satisfy current business needs. But are these relevant principles being applied and do we know what needs to change and be done differently today?


In 1991, in celebration of EIRMA's first quarter century, Reinhard Schulz and his staff produced a history of the period, describing the trends facing industrial research through the eyes and ears of EIRMA delegates at conferences and other events.
A scanned copy of this history is available for download at the links below:

• History, pages 1-20
• History, pages 21-40
• History, pages 41-60
• History, pages 61-85

Note that the files are quite large.


The questions studied by early EIRMA Working Groups are still relevant today (and Working Groups, Round Tables and Conferences have revisited most of them several times). However the context in which they are asked has changed completely and new questions have arisen and required answers.
Captured in phrases like First, Second and Third Generation R&D, industrial research management practices have adapted to reflect this changing and increasingly complex and global context and the greater business focus required within all firms' operations.
Our records suggest that delegates at early EIRMA Conferences saw themselves as industrial scientists.


As traditional boundaries of industrial innovation and R&D have become blurred, firms are now creating, acquiring, protecting and sharing knowledge and technology through a dynamic patchwork that extends throughout and beyond European industry. As a result, EIRMA now focuses more and more on the relationships between companies and with other organizations and governments that together make these approaches effective. Many people describe today's world using the phrase Open Innovation, a term coined by Henry Chesbrough, based in part on what he saw happening as a result of his contacts with EIRMA, the IRI and the OECD.
It is interesting, for example, to see how the role of creative researchers is described today, and to compare this with Casimir's Ten Commandments set out above. The following list was shown by a speaker from Philips during the 2006 Austrian Presidency of the European Union:

1. Hire the best people - “the best of the best”
2. Maintain many direct contacts with customers
3. Ensure researchers feel that their initiatives and creative ideas are appreciated
4. Use contacts across the boundaries of discipline as a source of the most creative ideas
5. Ensure sound balance between structure and “anarchy”
6. Provide a good infrastructure
7. Cooperate with the best research players in the world

The similarities and changes are striking. The best people are still valued and needed, but it is now much more explicit that they must be able to work well with others.

In spite of these changes, the principles that were established at the outset remain with us, in particular the emphasis on a company's management processes, the importance of strong networks and the use of informal meetings, study groups and conferences to give substance to these networks.

Our activities are planned by delegates from member companies, with the expectation that results will be shared among all members.

Innovation, supported by effective technology and R&D, wherever performed, remain crucial to industrial and economic performance. As a learning organization, EIRMA helps improve the effectiveness of the innovation process. We also support the design of more effective framework conditions, within which innovation and R&D flourish. Without trying to be a trade lobby, EIRMA contributes to the part that industry must play in the task of strengthening economic well-being.