Technology companies today are too focused on the short term and aren't doing what is needed to lay the foundation for growth, said Sandy Lerner, co-founder of Cisco Systems.
"When I was in graduate school in consumer science and math, all of the big companies had labs, all doing blue sky research," she said. "To me, it's a parallel to the business world. Nobody has a long-term view anymore, it's quarter-to-quarter and nobody is willing to fund blue sky research."
Lerner, who founded Cisco along with her husband, Leonard Bosack, in 1984, left the company in 1990, several months after its IPO.
"We're still reaping the benefits of the blue sky research from 20 to 30 years ago," Lerner said. "In 20 to 30 years, it's not still going to be there."
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"Blue sky" research is conducted without specific goals, on the assumption that unanticipated breakthroughs are often more valuable than findings in agenda-based research.
When asked about Google and whether its innovative projects are what's required long term, Lerner said that the company isn't concentrating on the foundational investigation that will lead technology into the second half of the century.
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"When we were in the valley, blue sky research was technology research," Lerner said. "I think Google is a great company, and they're doing really cool things," she said. "But they're not doing things that are going to put us, I think, into the next generation of technology. People are trying to go to the moon; they're trying to do fun things. Blue sky research is about research."