Jun 12 2005

Innovation

I’ve been thinking about “Innovation” a lot lately.  A big part of the NCWIT theme is that having women in computer science is critical to the innovation process.  I recently read my doctoral advisor Eric von Hippel’s new book Democratizing Innovation and re-engaged with Eric around the research he’s doing about user-driven innovation, especially in software around open source communities.  This morning, I finished reviewing proposals for the MIT Deshpande Center’s next grant cycle. 

Now – I know that reading grant proposals on a Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning is a particularly nerdy thing to do.  I did manage to tear myself away from the computer and go see Mr. and Mrs. Smith with Amy which had little to do with innovation, but was fun.  However, the proposals I reviewed (a subset of the overall proposal set) included:

  • Handheld Ultrasound Imaging Device
  • Laser cutting for faster, cheaper, better fiber optic connectors
  • Invisibly Modulated White LEDs for Economical and Embellished Lighting
  • Continuous Cycle Novel Dessert Freezing Process
  • Substrate Noise Analysis Program for Mixed-Signal Verification
  • Ultra-low-power Wireless Medical Tags

While this isn’t stuff that I’d fund (I’m a software guy after all), it stimulates an important part of my brain.  The depth and intensity of the early stages of the innovation process are similar across any domain set and it’s powerful, fascinating, and inspiring to think about.  It’s also very enlightening to take a step back and think about the core R&D process and subsequent evolution from innovation to commercialization, using MIT-based research as a starting point.  I continue to be really impressed with how the Deshpande Center is approaching this.