Vermeer Corp. discovered that if it were going to continue the legacy of its founder, it would need to step outside of its traditional approach to research and development. Gary Vermeer is credited with inventing the first round hay baler in the early 1970s before anyone suggested that agriculture needed a new approach to baling hay.

According to Mark Core, Vermeer’s executive vice president, forage and lifecycle and chief marketing officer, the company created a separate R&D group called Forage Innovations. “Their focus is on things that don’t exist in the marketplace today vs. our other product development group that focuses daily on bringing better balers, better mowers and better rakes to market. But our Forage Innovations team it is an interesting balance because we know we are going to be testing some concepts that aren’t initiated by our customers.”

This approach could be likened to Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs of the 1940s that resulted in some very innovative aircraft designs. It was dubbed “skunk works” at some point and is widely used throughout business to describe a group within an organization given a high degree of autonomy and unhampered by bureaucracy, with the task of working on advanced or secret projects.