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Breakthrough Innovation: Lessons & Paths to Success

Posted on December 15th, 2015 by in New Materials & Applications


In this excerpt from our white paper, Breakthrough Innovation in Material Science and Engineering, discover how academic research and market dynamics impact innovation, and valuable lessons for taking projects from concept to commercialization.

Academic Research and the Innovation Challenge

There’s an innovation explosion in the field of materials science and engineering, with advances like graphene, bio-based materials and lightweight composites on the leading edge.

A key driver of this innovation is the academic research sector. In its 2013 study, “Sparking Economic Growth.” The Science Coalition explains that, with the closure of AT&T’s Bell Labs, Xerox PARC, RCA Labs and others, more than half of all basic research in the United States is being conducted at universities, while only a fifth remains from the corporate sector.

Given their drive to explore new frontiers, academic researchers are well-positioned to uncover novel materials ideas. It’s a win-win situation for both researchers and their institutions when they successfully publish their breakthroughs in new materials. And publish they do: In a July 2015 “Advanced Materials: Top Technology & Research Trends” webinar, Dr. Stewart Bland, Editor and Senior Publisher of Materials Today, describes a 140% growth in materials research output from 2004-2014.

Much of this academic research is also funded by industry. There is pressure in the corporate sector to continually seek new materials and applications to better meet customer needs. The most successful companies are those able to establish channels and processes that allow R&D and engineering teams to tap into ideas from academia. For example, a recent analysis conducted by Elsevier suggests good correlation between change in share price between 1993 and 2013 and the share of company patents citing scientific literature. (Source: September 2015 ICIS Chemical Business, Special Report Innovation.)

Often, however, “game-changing” ideas are just that – ideas. Capturing commercial value from breakthrough innovations is a relatively longterm endeavor, as they may have little proven practical value or lack feasibility for mass production.

In addition to “breakthrough innovations,” the wealth of insights from academic research also helps companies to pursue incremental innovations- perhaps smaller steps, but more actionable and commercially viable within a shorter time period.

The business challenge – and opportunity – for today’s companies is to find and vet ideas from academic research that fit both customers’ needs and business objectives. And it’s worth it, as innovation done right can play a direct role in improving financial performance.

Read the full white paper and learn three lessons to fuel innovation.

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