One of the primary elements of the model’s past success is its emphasis on bringing basic scientists and engineers together to work on a single project with bold goals and tight timelines. This creates a cauldron of activity that is driven by the urgency and demands of a global problem. This kind of work falls into what’s known as Pasteur’s Quadrant.
Opportunities in Pasteur’s Quadrant are perishable in time. Either the problem shifts or the science does. So speed and agility are important. And because the goals are ambitious, we most often require diverse ideas and a vibrant mix of participants working from their home organizations. This is almost a unique characteristic of Pasteur’s Quadrant projects, which are almost always multi-discipline, multi-community, multi-stage and dynamically adapting throughout the program.
This also requires strong partnerships, humility, and respect. Because work in Pasteur’s Quadrant depends on a robust basic science discovery engine and organizations that scale innovations in the public and private sector.
This strategy is described in more detail in “Special Forces Innovation: How DARPA Attacks Problems”, Harvard Business Review, Dugan & Gabriel, 2013.