In general, is a position in academia the best way to contribute to a field of study?
In general, are contributions to a particular scientific field made from an industry position as impactful as contributions (to the same field) made from an academic position?
For example, say, you worked in one of the best teams/labs in industry for a given field (e.g. IBM or Google for a technology-related field). Can you produce work that rivals the work produced by some of the best academic groups/labs in that field (e.g. from MIT or Caltech for a technology-related field)?
Or is it that, although the people at these industry positions work with the latest ideas in the field, they don't (actively) contribute back to the field? I.e. they don't produce new ideas w.r.t. the field, but rather work on implementing the newest ideas in the field in commercial products?
Is it correct to assume that, in general, in a given field, a top researcher from industry has less understanding of the field (as a whole) compared to a top researcher from academia?
I realise that the question is perhaps a bit subjective, but as academics, if you were in an industry position, working on the same (or very similar) things you are working on now, do you think you could and would contribute as much to your respective field as you are contributing now?
The question is not about being active in academia from an industry position. I know that is possible. My question is, rather, about the quality, and to a lesser extent the quantity, of work.