Friday, October 23, 2009

The Technology and Innovation Expo

The Technology and Innovation Expo took place in Carbondale on October 9. More than 110 people were in attendance, including businesspeople, university faculty and staff, and regional economic development and media representatives.

After a welcome by Dr. Don Rice, Dr. Bob Gower gave the keynote speech to start the day. He talked about how large disruptive innovations are no longer coming from large companies. Large companies are losing the ability to innovate, in terms of doing meaningful research and taking the associated business risk. This is because large corporations lack the necessary culture that supports disruptive innovation. As with "The Innovator's Dilemma," great companies that do everything right sometimes still fail because they are out-innovated.

Dr. Gower suggested that this change presents a big opportunity for research universities such as SIUC. He pointed out that the best researchers nowadays are at universities. In his opinion, it's not money that is the most important ingredient for success, but drive and desire, a key trait of entrepreneurs. So, the combination of universities working with independent entrepreneurs will be the combination that will result in the big disruptive innovations moving forward.

His specific suggestions to SIUC were to continue to create research opportunities, and to continue to avoid too much bureaucracy and arrogance as the university grows. He referred to his pleasant experiences with SIU leadership and researchers and noted that it was an important asset of the university.

The morning presentations ranged from the contour table instructional laser device to an "Objective Tinnitus Testing Device" from the SIU Medschool. Several of the inventors talked about their experience of the inventive process and recognizing a need as the first step.

Thad Heckman demonstrated his contour table laser device for architectural instruction. He spoke of his experience using it in the classroom with positive results, and potential additional applications.

Dr. David Lightfoot talked about "Adding value to the annual $5 billion generated from sale of Illinois crops" and his four patents related to the subject, some of which are currently licensed by industry partners.

Dr. Bakul Dave talked about one of his patents that has applications including odor prevention, color protection and wrinkle prevention for fabrics.

Dr. Luke Tolley talked about his DIABLA invention for finding protein targets and its many applications from better enzymes for biofuels to personalized medicine.

Kristy Owen traveled to Carbondale from the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield for the day to present the "Objective Tinnitus Testing Device," and licensing opportunities available for human and animal applications.

Two patentees were honored during the luncheon, provided by Great Boars of Fire. Bruce DeRuntz received a plaque for his "Wire Connector Driver" design patent, issued July 22, 2008. David Lightfoot received a plaque for his "Method of determining soybean sudden death syndrome resistance in a soybean plant" greenhouse assays patent that was issued October 30, 2007.

Curt Jones entertained the lunch crowd with a talk about his experiences with the innovation process and some current directions of Dippin' Dots and his other projects. Event attendees were able to sample Dippin' Dots' new "Coffee Frappes" product throughout the day.

The afternoon technology session was focused on environment and energy, and the complete summary is available on the SIU Energy Technology Weblog.

The reception following the event was catered by La Bella Notte, an emerging local specialty catering team, with wine provided by Blue Sky Vineyard. Several sponsor organizations featured exhibits in the Atrium throughout the day.

The event's goal was to raise awareness of SIUC in business and industry as a center for technology and innovation, and more information will follow with more details about specific aspects of the event. More information about the event and the days' agenda is available here:

The feedback from presenters and attendees of the event was wholly positive, with reports that the quality of the presented work exceeded expectations, and that they would resoundingly attend the event again next year and recommend it to others.

As a result, the organizing committee is planning additional initiatives to further increase awareness of university technology and facilitate outcomes and deal flow. One of the first activities is this weblog. More information will follow in the coming weeks about the purpose and goals of the SIUC Technology Development weblog.