Definitions

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A loosely organized research and development team or facility.

Etymologies

From skunk + works. The term originated with Lockheed's unit by that name. As one source reports: (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • See also skunkworks, skunkwork.

    August 14, 2008

  • One division of the company, formally the Lockheed Martin Advanced Development Program, is still known as the Skunk Works. The term has been trademarked by Lockheed Martin, who have been aggressive in protecting it.

    As a generic term, it dates from the 1960s. One definition is very much that of the original and the one you describe: a small group of experts who drop out of the mainstream of a company's operations in order to develop some experimental technology or new application in secrecy or at speed, unhampered by bureaucracy or the strict application of regulations (Kelly Johnson formulated 14 visionary rules for running such an operation, which are still regarded as valid even now). It is also sometimes used for a similar group that operates semi-illicitly, without top-level official knowledge or support, though usually with the tacit approval of immediate management.
    (from World Wide Words)

    May 28, 2008