Just because the conflict in a novella needs to be solvable in a short amount of time, it does not mean that the conflict has to be unimportant. Something has to be at stake. And that something at stake should be something readers will care about. And industrial espionage, when the research being stolen can’t be immediately applied in any terrible way, and the demons already have easy access to the material being studied … okay, maybe that was a bad idea.
Very bad idea. Beyond the boundary of Kind-of-Dumb and verging onto Stupidville.
ETA: of course, the good news is that after dancing around this problem and not seeing it through the first crappy drafts, and assuming the problem was, in turn: the villain, the heroine’s (lack of) emotional connection to the conflict, the revised villain, my inability to write anything omg I’m just a stupid hack!!! … now I’m pretty happy with all of that stuff, so now that I’ve figured out the REAL problem, it’s all so much easier.