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DuPont Superconductivity Team Achieves, Thanks To 'Networking'

In early 1987, when research team around the world began reporting higher and higher superconductivity temperatures, several scientists at E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co in Wilmington, Del., were touched by the fervor spreading throughout the scientific community. It was the spontaneous outpouring of enthusiasm by this group of bench scientists—rather than a sudden profit-motivated decision on the part of DuPont senior management—that resulted shortly thereafter in the company’

Kenneth Friedman
In early 1987, when research team around the world began reporting higher and higher superconductivity temperatures, several scientists at E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co in Wilmington, Del., were touched by the fervor spreading throughout the scientific community. It was the spontaneous outpouring of enthusiasm by this group of bench scientists—rather than a sudden profit-motivated decision on the part of DuPont senior management—that resulted shortly thereafter in the company’s making a major commitment to superconductivity research.

And within a matter of months, the group had pulled off at least three major breakthroughs. These were made possible to a large extent by a refreshing show of corporate flexibility on the part of DuPont management—flexibility that permitted a kind of interdepartmental science networking not often seen in large-company environments.

Although DuPont has never been in the business of selling products that take advantage of superconductivity technology, the program that got...

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