Collaboration—that is the key to the next generation of innovation. Not just people at one company working together as a team to create and then launch a product, but rather a team of experts from differing organizations that will look to launch a truly innovative product for the marketplace.
Take the latest sensor initiative from Princeton University.
In an effort to engineer sensors that have the ability to detect minute amounts of chemicals found in the atmosphere, emitted from factories or exhaled from humans, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will fund a multimillion-dollar engineering research center at Princeton University.
The goal is to produce devices low in cost and so easy to use they transform the way agencies monitor air quality, governments guard against attack, and scientists understand the evolution of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Partners with Princeton are the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Rice University, Johns Hopkins University, Texas A&M University, and the City College of New York. Funding for the center, which will include industrial support in addition to the NSF funding, could exceed $40 million over 10 years. NSF funding started 1 May with $2.97 million for the first year.
The center, called Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE), will combine the work of 40 faculty members, 30 graduate students, and 30 undergraduates from the six universities. The center is also collaborating with industrial partners to turn the technology into commercial products. While you may think these are universities with a goal of conducting research, they also compete against each other for quality faculty, students, and grant money, among other things. So, the idea of collaborating on such a huge endeavor is a big deal.
Each of MIRTHE's research teams will be able to capitalize on each other's advances, said Anthony Johnson, professor of physics and professor of computer science and electrical engineering and director of the Center for Advanced Studies in Photonics Research at University of Maryland, Baltimore County and a deputy director of the research center. "We make use of established technologies while also pursuing novel high-risk approaches," he said. "The potential payoff is enormous."
A key mission of MIRTHE is to help ensure a competitive U.S. workforce by educating students who carry forward the center's knowledge to industry, government, and academia.
"Collaborations that transcend individual departments and institutions are the wave of the future," said H. Vincent Poor, the incoming dean of Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. "Bringing together people of diverse expertise to work on important and very complex problems creates a highly effective environment for research."
This is all about innovation for the sake of making a better product or helping industry move forward. A naive concept? Maybe. In a world where organizations have scaled back to bare bones and finding time to initiate any type of creative thought is a joke, partnering to find a quality solution is the only way to go.
What do you think? Talk to me.