That's one reason why, in 1999, Lazaridis donated $100 million of his nascent fortune to seed the institute. Another, he says, is "because people take theoretical physics for granted." No kidding. This world of equations and chalk dust is about as far away as you can get from the world of commerce. Why anyone would hand over such a massive amount of money—at the time, close to one-fifth of Lazaridis's net worth—to a collection of wild-haired math freaks is lost on most of the folks on Bay Street. Sure, Lazaridis knows that quarterly earnings are important. (In its most recent quarter, RIM posted a higher-than-expected profit of $412.5 million and shipped 2.2 million new BlackBerrys, the first time in the company's history that it broke through the two-million-mark in a quarter.) But he also knows that without the kind of work being done at Perimeter, chances are slim that someone will develop another world-beating technology like RIM's 60 or 80 years down the line.
Many of the CEO's of major technological and electronics companies are aware of this. The question is, do the general public and the politicians know this?