One of the primary elements of DARPA’s success is the Agency’s commitment to work at the intersection of basic science and application, so-called Pasteur’s quadrant.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is not a pure science organization, but neither is it a pure application organization. It sits firmly at the intersection of the two and, to be successful, it needs the minds of the basic scientist and the engineer, those in universities, and those in industry. And it needs them working together, often on a single project, in the cauldron created by the urgency and demands of a global problem.
This is almost a unique characteristic of DARPA projects, which are often multi-discipline, multi-community, and multi-stage.
This also depends on 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.