While pure theory is wasteful, bringing applied research to academia is equally wasteful!
Applied research seeks to produce applied results. These results are good or bad depending on their real-world application. But in academia, success is defined by peer review. Peers do not test real-world applications! Moreover, researchers have an approximative idea of real-world problems.
Hence, I cringe every time I hear about a new academic applied project. Professors are rarely good at solving real problems! A better option is to use the world around us as a stimuli for research ideas.
To put it bluntly, you cannot live in an ivory tower and pretend to tell others what to do. Instead, use your tower to have a bird’s eye view on the world! Study the world! But be humble about what you can do to transform it!