Google’s Research Boss on Turning Exploration into Products

John Giannandrea In April 1998 two Stanford grad students in computer science published a paper describing a new way to rank hypertext documents. The company they incorporated that September is now worth $480 billion and employs 60,000 people.Google, as they called it, is now just one division inside its recently created corporate parent, Alphabet. Its combined operations spent almost $10 billion on research and development last year, 15 percent of the company’s revenue, and that outlay is growing. Striking projects like self-driving cars and the wearable computer Google Glass attract the most attention, and some investors have complained that the company is spending too liberally on things that won’t pay off soon. But Alphabet’s largest research team, inside the original Google, shows that returns from these investments in research are…

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