Thursday, December 24, 2009
Independent innovation. Happy Holidays Ben Franklin!
A new Business Week article - Ben Franklin Where Are You? - is about the United States falling behind in the global patent race.
The article in the Dec. 28, 2009 issue by Michael Arndt documents the fact that in 2009 for the first time non-Americans were granted more U.S. patents than resident inventors.
The body of the article focuses on the difficulties universities and high tech centers are facing in the patent race. However, the headline (celebrating Ben Franklin) highlights our history as independent innovators.
It's my opinion that this kind of citizen innovation and entrepreneurship is more alive and flourishing than I've ever seen in decades of work in the field. In fact I think the world is full of Ben Franklins, and that the age of the independent entrepreneur and inventor is just arriving.
I think a difference between an independent inventor and those in universities and corporate labs is that independent inventors work to solve very specific problems not create new technologies.
Dave and I didn't have any budget to launch or grow our company. We had values that were important to us and each of us had a skill set that built on the other person's strengths.
We also knew some really cool ways to solve some very specific problems. The fact that new technologies emerged from this and were taken through the intellectual property process was an afterthought.
The fact that the rest of the world is surpassing the United States in patents is a tribute to the value placed on ever increasing innovation by governments and societies worldwide. Much of the world seems to get it that continuous, sustainable innovation is the only way forward.
So, my favorite independent innovation story from the last startup Dave and I founded…
One of the world's leading satellite and space manufacturing firms, Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne, recently gutted their two satellite and space manufacturing plants in California and retrofitted them from the ground up with worldwide 'best of class' equipment. Their corporate mantra is: "Pure and simple, we are the best at what's new."
Rocketdyne chose to recycle their manufacturing fluids using inventions Dave and I created. We worked out these ideas far from corporate labs and universities.
It was my last major sale for our company. I really miss that work.
Thank you Pratt and Whitney! The fact that you chose our inventions as the 'best of what's new' for fluid recycling in 21st century space manufacturing is a lifelong honor for an independent inventor.
For those of you working in the trenches, let me say that there are big firms and important organizations looking for better ideas and ways to innovate. Even when you're doubting your own capability to execute or to reach those markets, press on. The world needs you, your ideas, and your work. Like Pratt & Whitney, keep working to be the best at what's new.
Happy Holidays 2009!
Photo courtesy of Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne. Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-110)
Business Week article, Ben Franklin Where Are you?. Online edition Dec. 17, 2009. Print edition Dec. 28th and Jan. 4th.
Our first patent (patent number 6,183,654). I wrote this patent and did the patent drawings. For our subsequent inventions, we turned this process over to our wonderful patent attorney Dr. Jaen Andrews - Thank you Dr. Jaen!