[EAS] Innovation is Changing

Peter J. Kindlmann pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Wed May 4 23:07:14 EDT 2005

(from INNOVATION, 4 May 2005)

       Lord Broers, president of the U.K.'s Royal Academy of
Engineering, says that when he received his Ph.D. in the mid-1960s
there was no doubt in  anybody's mind at that time that the ideal
model for technology development  was the large, well-funded,
industrial research laboratories such as AT&T  Bell Labs, Xerox
PARC, and HP's research labs. But things have changed. "In
retrospect it becomes obvious that this support of fundamental
science was  in effect a philanthropic activity and could be
afforded because the  companies that practiced it on a significant
scale were in fact monopolies." Since then, the world of technology
and science has expanded  so much that it is no longer possible,
even for the largest companies, to  sustain a research effort that
can cover all the disciplines used in their  products. Broers says,
"To be successful the innovators will almost  certainly need an
intimate knowledge of the science that underlies the  technology,
but their aim will not be to further the science. They will use
their knowledge to break down the barriers that stand in the way of
practical application." This is also necessary because the
components in  almost any modern product -- such as the mobile
phone, the Airbus A380, or  the modern automobile -- are made by
such a wide variety of firms, are all  good examples of this
bringing together of lots of parts for a common end.  "Companies
ceased to make entire products themselves and became assemblers  of
the world's best, and to do this they had to know the world - both
its  technologies and its peoples." (BBC News 20 Apr 2005)

Dear Colleagues -

As you will discover from the BBC link, Lord Broers's comments are
part of his Reith Lectures <http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith/> for
2005. Past Reith luminaries, samples of whose lectures are online,
include Bertrand Russell, the first Reith lecturer in 1948, John
Kenneth Galbraith in 1966, and Vilayanur S. Ramachandran in 2003.

Lord Broers's five lectures 
<http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2005/lectures.shtml> are
Lecture 1: Technology will Determine the Future of the Human Race
Lecture 2: Collaboration
Lecture 3: Innovation and Management
Lecture 4: Nanotechnology and Nanoscience
Lecture 5: Risk and Responsibility

They are accessible as audio files and text.  --PJK

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