This paper focuses on the development of the hydroxylamine phosphate oxime (HPO) process for the manufacture of caprolactam, an intermediate for nylon, by Central Laboratory, the R&D organisation of the Dutch chemical company DSM. The example of the HPO process shows that Central Laboratory was independent rather than isolated. This position enabled it to develop its own view of the interest of the company and start research projects regardless of the opinion of the production and marketing functions. The example of the HPO process shows the potency of such a position but also the problems involved. As a medium-sized chemical company, DSM is a company that may be more typical for the practice of R&D between 1945 and 1970 than the large companies that historians have typically chosen for analysis.