A year ago, Walter Robb became the first vice president of corporate R&D for General Electric to hold credentials in both science and business. A chemical engineer by training, Robb worked as a research scientist at GE for 11 years before being promoted to management. For the next 18 years, he ran a series of GE businesses, including medical systems and CT scanning, building the latter from scratch into a $400 million annual business for the company. His range of experience equips him for the challenges of his current role, he believes, and offers a unique perspective on science and technology issues in this country.

As VP for R&D, Robb controls 10% of GE's $1.2 billion R&D budget - the amount devoted to basic research - and directs the 2,000 employees that do research for the entire company. And in his short tenure, Robb has already been forced to come...

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