True Innovation and Bell Labs

Written by  //  February 27, 2012  //  Alumni, Faculty, Staff, Student Success, Students  //  1 Comment

I just read an article in the New York Times titled “True Innovation“.

The article is a brief history of Bell Labs and description of how the lab scientists, engineers, and technologists worked together to create one of the most prolific labs that produced innovation funded by an industry. The article also defines innovation in a narrow way compared to how that term is currently being used in our country.

The author defines innovation as “an important new product or process, deployed on a large scale and having a significant impact on society and the economy, that can do a job better, or cheaper, or both”. The creation of a new phone app or process improvement limited to a factory would not be considered innovation by this definition. A new phone app creates a handful of jobs and modest revenue while the other creates millions of jobs.

It seems to me we need both types of innovation in our society. The large innovations that have lasting impact are produced by investing in more theoretical research, such as that found at universities like Purdue and in fewer and fewer companies, such as IBM. However, once a large innovation takes its form in society it is the smaller innovations that improve it, sustain it and make it “better, or cheaper, or both”.

That is where the College of Technology shines as we prepare graduates who are innovators that sustain large scale innovations. With the rapidly changing economic landscape in our globally connected world, there is a need for rapid innovation through applied research and development. The integration of existing and emerging technologies with a dash of innovation is how we prepare graduates from the College of Technology. We are working on modifying our curriculum so that all students have some experience and knowledge of innovation so they can not only understand its vital importance for the future of the nation but can also fully participate and lead innovation in business and industry.

One Comment on "True Innovation and Bell Labs"

  1. Esteban Garcia March 5, 2012 at 1:37 pm · Reply

    The article about the Bell Labs is very inspiring. I think that one of their key points to produce “long lasting” innovations was to have a space for collaboration between diverse disciplines. The focus on development was not in the “for what”, but Bell embraced a spirit of creative experimentation instead. The College of Technology is looking in the right direction!

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