We're much more cautious nowadays.
Decades ago, research into the uses of lead, mercury, cadmium, asbestos, CFCs and the like yielded enormous economic value.
Today, the real value of much of that research is close to zero, or even negative.
Present-day researchers must consider not just the product or process itself, but also the health and environmental consequences of its adoption. This all takes time and effort, and is bound to reflect badly in the figures, but is probably an improvement in real terms.
I don't think the picture is as bleak as a purely economic assessment indicates, and we certainly don't need any more radium watch dials. And we want our ozone layer restored.