This is a nice article on how Bell Labs achieved so much: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/26/opinion/sunday/innovation-and-the-bell-labs-miracle.html
A lot of the observations are perhaps not that new to people in the know. However, the point I take away from the article is this:
Despite the apparent replication of the Bell Labs atmosphere in the labs of the newer technology companies (e.g., MS Research, Google/Yahoo to a small extent but also outside the US, e.g., say, SAP or Daimler in Germany), is there any such place in the world today where we expect a Shannon or a Shockley to be working, seamlessly bridging the gap between world class theory and cutting edge practical application? I suspect not, but why and what does that say about how the whole research enterprise is perceived at all levels of the hierarchy?