General Motors Corp.'s six science laboratories once were the envy of industrial world. The brainpower harnessed on its Warren, MI campus enabled GM to become a renowned product innovator. But in recent years, the reputation of its laboratories has sagged in concert with its market share, and GM has been criticized for its inability to turn research developments into profitable marketplace advances.

Alan I. Taub, GM's new Executive Director of Science for GM Research and Development, is hoping to change that. Among other degrees, Mr. Taub holds a Ph.D. in applied physics from Harvard. Coming most recently from Ford Motor Co., where he was a manager of vehicle engineering and once ran Ford's materials science dept., he says his goal at GM is “reinventing global R & D for the 21st century.” He says he also wants GM's R & D efforts to mirror the “strategic alliance” strategy it's using to gain global market share. Instead of buying up pieces of automakers, though, he's looking to set up strategic alliances with universities and to buy equity in outside research labs to bolster GM's research efforts.