It’s fairly uncontroversial that In the past, corporate labs filled a particular niche in the innovation ecosystem. There’s a strong sense that as of 2020, they no long fill that niche. However, corporate labs (including Xerox PARC and Bell Labs) still exist, so we need to create a strong argument that they no longer fill an important niche.
I’ll proceed by both looking at outputs and inputs. Outputs are just the labs’ real-world outcomes and note that corporate labs are no longer producing the sorts of outputs they once did. However, that argument has a causality problem - it could be that labs are actually filling the same niche and a confounder is causing decreased output. This confounder could be the same thing driving the Low Hanging fruit theory of stagnation. So we also need to outline the conditions/inputs that were arguably necessary for the labs to fill their niche in the past and illustrate how those conditions no longer exist. Neither approach is bulletproof but hopefully a combination of the two is convincing.
A couple of caveats: there are many exceptions. AI research is an exception to the decline of corporate R+D and there are many potentially amazing projects happening at corporate labs around the world. One might argue that the exceptions are the rule - that there are just fewer technologies that would benefit from healthy corporate labs (remember, the Low Hanging fruit confounder.) It’s impossible to prove definitively, but evidence suggests that The niche corporate labs once occupied still needs to be filled.
Going through the characteristics of the niche: