Jim Euchner, From the Editor, RTM 61.3
“Let me speak frankly: the advantage of innovation for multinational companies has shrunk substantially since the early 2000s.”
—Professor Hengyuan Zhu, Tsinghua University
I was invited to visit China for the first time in 1989, to speak about expert systems, then at the forefront of practical AI. At that time, technology transfer from the West to China was a one-way street, and it was expected to be so for some time. My visit was canceled by the tragic events at Tiananmen Square in June of that year. The emergence of a vibrant culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in China seemed very far away.
Jim Euchner, From the Editor, RTM 61.1
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
I have always been intrigued by the notion of forest succession. Following the burnout of a forest, the trees that grow are not (at first) the ones that were burned. The soil and the light are not proper for these trees. Instead, first-generation vegetation—mostly mosses and grasses—begins to grow, almost as soon as the ashes cool. Over time, as these plants grow, they change the composition of the soil, making the conditions right for a second-generation forest composed of bushes and small trees. Next, fast-growing evergreen trees take over. These trees love the sun and quickly become the dominant species. Soon, trees that thrive in the shade—the large, deciduous trees that will be the dominant species in the mature forest—begin to grow in their understory. The canopy they produce creates an environment in which the shade-intolerant pines cannot thrive; the climax forest is primarily composed of large, long-lived, shade-producing trees.
by Edward Bernstein, IRI president; published in RTM, Vol 60, 6
Five years ago, IRI celebrated its 75th anniversary by looking back over the accomplishments of the Institute and its members and envisioning what the next 75 years will bring. While much has changed in the field of innovation management over IRI’s lifespan, these shifts are modest compared to those that are coming. IRI is no stranger to change; in fact, we champion it by facilitating the incredible innovation endeavors of our members and by making smart pivots as an organization.
Through the decades, our organization has kept a steadfast focus on creating value that keeps pace with the continuously evolving needs of our members. The IRI of the 20th century focused on the leader of the central R&D laboratory; while the company was the unit of membership, our programs and services were geared toward providing value to the Chief Technology Officer. This value centered on the relationships developed at semiannual meetings held at top-tier venues. As R&D has become more distributed, IRI has evolved along with it, creating new ways to serve the new value creation units emerging in member companies. These new avenues included our networks, more open online content, and an increase in the number of complimentary registrations included with organizational memberships, to encourage broader participation in our network and ROR programs.
Now, our brand and the experience we offer need to catch up with that evolution, to communicate a cohesive vision that is relevant to the times and strategically mapped to how companies will realize growth into the 21st century. As we prepare to lead into the future, we know that the functions we support are more often referred to as innovation than as R&D—a permanent change that is more than semantic. Furthermore, the term industrial research, the core of our name, is anachronistic, belying our forward-thinking approach and creating a barrier to the organization’s adoption by “new economy” industries. For these reasons, the Industrial Research Institute is repositioning itself in the market with a new name: the Innovation Research Interchange. This change reflects our new value proposition, better defines the unique collaborative experiences we foster, and aligns with how our members achieve growth.
By Jim Euchner, VP, Global Innovation, Goodyear; Editor-in-Chief, Research-Technology Management (RTM)
“Well something’s lost, but something’s gained In living every day.”
—Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now”
This is an optimistic issue. In it, you will read about a wide variety of ways in which digitalization will improve the practice of R&D. Ted Farrington, in his summary article, “On the Impact of Digitalization on R&D,” gives a broad view of the changes we will see. He looks at the three major trends discussed in this issue—virtual experimentation and simulation, digital collaboration, and big data—through the lens of the four scenarios for the future explored in the IRI2038 program. His introduction to the issue makes clear not only that much is possible, but also that there are many harbingers of the future in what we see happening today.
By Greg Holden, Business Writer and Social Media Manager, IRI
Technology lets us do amazing things. Where once a research and development (R&D) team needed to be located in the same facility in order to collaborate, today, the sight of engineers collaborating with globally distributed coworkers via IT tools is quite common. But this dispersion of staff poses challenges of its own. For instance, when you have yet to meet one of your co-workers in person, how do you develop trust with her? When you share an office space it’s easy to casually pass along concerns, observations, insights, or interesting findings to your colleagues around a water cooler. Is it possible to replicate this with global teams? Not really. So communication is dampened on a global team. Based on research at the Industrial Research Institute (IRI), these challenges have been studied and some general rules about building a successful global team have been laid out. Continue reading
By Greg Holden, Business Writer & Social Media Manager, IRI
Let’s face it, the number of crowdsource competitions blooming into existence these days is staggering; almost too many to choose from. This is normal, of course, for any research practice that proves itself an effective method for solving problems quickly. But there’s a downside: with so many competitions to choose from, people who would normally participate in many competitions will, over time, become more selective. Why should they choose yours?
By Igor M. Sill, Managing Director of Geneva Venture Management and Geneva Venture Partners
The ability to recruit exceptionally talented and capable management leaders is possibly the purest form of exceptional entrepreneurship and the key to organizational success. The correlation between today’s most successful technology companies and their executive team is clearly the founder’s ability to hire world-class leadership and management.
By Michael Maccoby, President, The Maccoby Group
A large part of your job as a research/technology manager is understanding people, not just evaluating how well they have performed. Evaluation is the easy part; much harder is predicting how people will perform in new roles.
Veterans of IRI meetings are largely familiar with our brand, our value statement, our mission and, in general, who we are. They recognize that what we offer is unique, that the value gained by attending our meetings is unparalleled in terms of gaining high level contacts, networking with people who face similar challenges across every industry, and learning (as well as creating) genuine best practices in a field where best practices are tough to pin down. A few of these veterans are aware of the organizational modifications we’re currently undertaking, but most are not.
IRI is changing.