As 2006 looms closer, industry, both general and timber-related, is full of talk of “challenging” times ahead.

When faced with tough trading conditions, the temptation is often to batten down the hatches and cut back on “peripheral” activities. Catering facilities are usually the first to go, often swiftly followed by marketing, and research and development. The axing of either of the last two can have devastating long-term effects.

Marketing will be the subject of a special feature in our first issue of 2006 but, as this week’s TTJ clearly demonstrates, R&D is the lifeblood of the timber industry and you turn your back on it at your peril.

To quote Prof Philip Turner at Napier University‘s Centre for Timber Engineering: “The timber industry as a whole is technologically driven and I’ve seen many companies around the world go out of business because they didn’t invest in the right technology.”

He believes that any company that wants to be there for the long haul – and which of us doesn’t? – should engender a culture of innovation. And one way to get off the innovation starting blocks is to engage with research bodies to discuss “strategic needs”.

Timber research is not the province of ivory-towered boffins but belongs to the timber industry as a whole and all the organisations covered in this week’s special feature have industry and research partners to prove it.

TRADA, the bastion of timber research, maintains that this spirit of co-operation is the way forward. It has already contacted leading industry associations and professional institutions asking them to identify potential research projects. Feedback – and a commitment to support the ensuing research activity – is essential if the timber industry is to continue to move forward. As Geoff Taylor so rightly says in his column below, “change can be exciting and profitable”.

This is our last issue of 2005 so, on behalf of all at TTJ, may I wish our readers a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.