I have seen that working in a fledgling software services firm as a programmer entails a lot (in fact, all) of the time being spent working on meeting client specs and requirements on their software projects as well as shuffling between different projects. So much that little effort can be made to sit and research (and then work) on new and exciting technologies. For instance, HTML5 holds wonderful prospects on both web and mobile platforms but since it is still bleeding-edge (hence difficult to convince clients to use it) and relatively new (hence the lack of developers proficient in it), it's difficult to implement it on the projects.
My question is, does it make sense to allocate a few hours in a week (say, 2-3hrs on a particular day of the week) to let programmers/developers work on the tools and technologies that they are interested in with the aim of (what I see as) fulfilling the following:
The developers are happy since they get to learn about and research on cool stuff.
The company can (and ideally should) benefit from the research, say for instance, we learn that mongoDB databases are a better choice to implement on future projects than memcached-MySql.
Of course, there could be some rules put into place to ensure productivity and output such as pairing between programmers, giving a presentation of the research or a rudimentary demo application of the subject just researched. Not everything has to be bleeding-edge though. For example, one could weigh the benefits of using Groovy web framework over Spring (both of which are old technologies) and use the former in the next java-based web project.
The underlying question remains if its a good thing to implement this idea in a startup where finances are client-driven? How do you convey this message to the client (that for so-and-so time period, we won't be addressing your concerns)? The idea is to retain talent in the company and deliver "cutting-edge" software products using the best tools and technologies. Would you strongly disapprove of it? And if you concur, how would you feel is the best way to go about it?