How to Drive and Motivate Modern-Day Innovation

By Shannon Davis, Web Editor, Solid State Technology

Technology innovation isn’t slowing down. But its steady acceleration isn’t happening spontaneously, and Tuesday’s Silicon Innovation Forum keynote from Professor of Innovation Dr. Bob Metcalfe outline how he believes to effectively drive the complex cycle that is modern-day innovation.

“Change in itself is not improvement – the crux of the matter is in innovation management,” said Dr. Metcalfe. “Ideas are a dime a dozen, and most are bad ideas.”

When it comes to innovating, Dr. Metcalfe has a lengthy resume to prove he knows what he’s talking about: Internet pioneer, inventor of Ethernet, co-founder of 3Com Corporation, publisher-CEO of IDG/Info-World – his credentials are seemingly endless. So, when he began to explain the ecology he believed needed to develop the most effective innovation system, his audience sat up and took notes.

Dr. Metcalfe explained that, in his experience, the most effective, successful innovation ecology is comprised of seven key players: funding agencies, research professors, graduating students, scaling entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, strategic investors, and early adopters. In discussing funding agencies, he also addressed the sometimes-sticky role of research universities in driving innovation.

“Are research universities up to it? Are they up to doing our research for us?” he mused. “They’re not well-managed; they’re heavily governed – we need to keep universities competing with each other and that will improve their management.”

“Universities don’t like it when I say that,” he joked.

Research universities are also up against a new kind of challenge, he pointed out – the growing popularity of online campuses. Dr. Metcalfe said that the affect of this on universities’ abilities to effectively carry out research has yet to be seen, but it certainly something that manufacturers ought to consider when discussing partnerships with research universities in the future.

Dr. Metcalfe also suggested that giving IP to researching professors or students, the true inventors, might provide added incentive for increased participation in research programs at institutions.

So, where will the next great innovation be? Dr. Metcalfe said he, albeit biasedly, supports more innovation in networking, but encouraged the audience to seriously consider pursuing entirely new and crucial forms of innovation, such as making solar energy affordable.

“The world’s most important problems will not be solved by yet another website,” said Dr. Metcalfe. “We need to address how to get this new generation to think about innovating things that matter.”

Dr. Bob Metcalfe at Tuesday's Silicon Innovation Forum keynote at SEMICON West 2014. (Photo provided by SEMI)

Dr. Bob Metcalfe at Tuesday’s Silicon Innovation Forum keynote at SEMICON West 2014. (Photo provided by SEMI)