Corrosion Research and Development

Corrosion research has played a critical role in developing the technical framework and underpinnings for corrosion mitigation activities. Research has also assisted organizations in identifying new threats that did not become apparent from past operating experience. However, corrosion research and development (R&D) has the greatest business impact when aligned with an organization’s business strategy. Without this alignment, R&D can either be too operationally focused or disconnected from value-creation for an organization.

Operational R&D focuses narrowly in scope and time because day-to-day troubleshooting drives it. Within the management system pyramid of Figure 3.3, operational R&D usually falls within the ”Procedures and Working Practices” of a business unit. Value creation is incremental because deliverables need short-term ROI, and project size is restricted by available discretionary funds within operational budgets. Operational R&D within ”Plans” of the management system pyramid tend to have corporate funding, which justifies use of centralized funds, which fall outside of an operating unit budget and facilitates implementation of deliverables across the organization.

The corrosion industry is replete with examples of unanticipated failures (steam generator cracking, pipeline stress corrosion cracking, etc.). Long-term, applied research (or strategic research) helps develop new knowledge that can sustain an organization by anticipating new risks and creating solutions. Long-term research may not fit into the procedures and work plans of an organization precisely because it is aimed at anticipating and mitigating disruptive scenarios.

Basic research adds to a scientific body-of-knowledge and sets the overall paradigm within which corrosion professionals conduct their activities. However, both basic and long-term applied research provide an organization tools to deal with unanticipated risks and should be considered in the strategic part of the overall organizational management pyramid.

R&D is strategic if it aligns with a management system element of the CMS pyramid, which ties to operational knowledge found in lower parts of the pyramid, including a strategic element that allows an assessment of business impact to define and justify specific R&D activities. This allows prioritization of R&D funds across an organization. Most importantly, aligning R&D with organizational strategy enables value creation (i.e., positive ROI). Including management system elements within R&D has the further benefits of introducing governance to include roles and responsibilities, collaboration between functional areas, relevance to operational needs, and measurement of research benefits.

A further consideration for including business-oriented contributors to R&D is that deliverables can include both technical and business innovations. For example, the concept promoted in this report to move from corrosion control to corrosion management is innovative because it creates value by doing something new.