An Anniversary in Honor of Industry

By Ed Bernstein, President, Industrial Research Institute

As we take off from the starting line of IRI’s anniversary year, we look back and recognize all that has been done by industry over the past three quarters of a century. From spaceships landing the first man on the moon using computer technology no more complicated than today’s handheld calculators to complex international space stations monitoring us from above with state-of-the-art equipment. From simple counting machines and vacuum tube monstrosities to today’s pocket-sized tablets processing more data per minute than the earliest computers could in a lifetime. The progress we all see and take for granted is what we are highlighting and honoring throughout IRI’s 75th anniversary in 2013: the legacy of industrial innovation.

The brainstorming genius that brought the world space travel, 3-D printing, GPS navigation, Post-It™ notes, and many other innovations, is the same genius collaborating at IRI events. These men and women come to share their successes and failures with R&D practitioners working in similar environments under similar constraints. This year is about them; about you, the R&D practitioner. This year is for those who go to painstaking lengths to bring us the new gadget, the new material, the new product that improves our lives and makes us healthier, safer, or more comfortable. IRI is here to put you in touch with those who walk across other industries in the same shoes you wear, confronting the same challenges. We provide the medium; you provide the innovation and insight.

IRI was established in 1938 with two goals in mind: 1) assisting the effective organization and management of industrial R&D facilities, and 2) shaping the agenda of industry in a way which guaranteed a better, more productive, more profitable, more innovative business and industrial ecosystem through the use of strategic collaboration. It was about giving the reins of R&D management over to its practitioners, providing a safe environment for them to figure out their own best practices in privacy, and then helping them disseminate their findings for a broader audience. Rightly so, the leaders of industry participating in IRI meetings understand that R&D leadership is not about markets, or products, or even brand management. It is about learning how individuals placed in charge of managing industrial R&D facilities and personnel can improve their own performance through shared knowledge and experience with others like them.

So the key to the success IRI witnesses among its members, and the most potent aspect of this year’s celebration, is their thought leadership in industrial and technological innovation. To help recognize their efforts, we are enlarging the scope and scale of our meetings. We have put together a slate of speakers for our Diamond Jubilee event that will expand on our usual practitioner-based research, delivering theoretical as well as practical approaches to R&D. Our Diamond Jubilee, set in Washington, DC, this May is an event for the ages. Speakers range from across industry, academia, and government, an aspirational and thought-provoking lineup. Highlights include keynotes from innovation guru Clay Christensen, P&G CEO Bob McDonald, and Colgate-Palmolive CTO Patricia Verduin, as well as sessions featuring John Seely Brown, C. Daniel Mote, Jr., Peter Sheahan, and Mostafa Analoui, among many others. Also hear from this year’s renowned IRI award winners: Robert Langer of MIT and George Whitesides of Harvard.

If you haven’t done so already, visit our anniversary website: www.iri75.org. You will see a list of all the organizations making these expanded anniversary events possible through their generous donations, but you will also notice that at the top of the page there are three tabs you should open and read about. The first is our timeline. Here we have compiled as much history as we can on IRI’s past and on what our membership’s big achievements were throughout the past 75 years. On the second page you’ll notice that there is a place for you to share your story. We are asking that any and all IRI members, past or present, share a personal story about how IRI has helped them or their organization, or to simply say congratulations to IRI on reaching its 75th anniversary.

Take a look at an overview of our Tech Tournament. This year we are hosting a unique event which asks all IRI member companies to create a short, one-minute video outlining and marketing their organization’s most significant technological or process innovation. These videos will be entered into competition with each other in a round-robin tournament with an open voting system where anyone, IRI member or not, can vote on their favorite innovations. Here is where all members can showcase themselves and their products for a global audience and compete for the honor to be named tournament victor. The final four will square off at our Future Summit, right around the time we sit for a video teleconference with the International Space Station’s astronauts, courtesy of NASA.

This year is an important milestone for us and we are honoring our members for making everything possible. We also ask that they join us in all that we are offering as congratulations for improving our lives and making now the most exciting time in history to be alive. More importantly, though, this year isn’t just about looking back and marveling at what industry has done in 75 years; it is also about looking forward to the exciting discoveries and advancements still waiting to be developed and employed by industry over the next 75 years and beyond. Join us at IRI’s Future Summit in San Jose, California, this November and find out what the future has in store for industry and for IRI.

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