On keeping U.S. innovation competitive

© Scott Maxwell | Dreamstime.com

© Scott Maxwell | Dreamstime.com

Heads’ up, U.S. companies/policymakers/agency funders/educators/investors/whoeveryouare —  read Innovation in the 21st Century: Keeping the U.S. Competitive (Justin Rattner’s analysis of Newsweek & Intel’s survey findings on innovation and the economy).

The premise?

  • Innovation drives growth.
  • The 21st century model is different.

We couldn’t agree more. PARC today is no longer Xerox PARC (or “a big think tank”), but a commercial entity with multiple Fortune 500 and other clients.

While we’re known for inventing the Ethernet, GUI, personal and distributed computing, a-Si applications, and more, we’re building our own “contemporary research model” for innovation by positioning ourselves at the heart of industrial R&D, government contracts, and world-class university research. (For us, the last one is translated as bringing together the top minds from diverse fields: our talent is our primary asset.)

Many of our initiatives fall into the 21st-century innovation nexus between  industrial R&D x academic research x government that Rattner describes. For example, our cleantech work in water filtration began with top physicists and engineers whose microfluidics expertise was honed through years of manipulating toner particles for our client’s product at the time (Xerox printers). This competency was extended into other applications through a government contract for clean water. Today, we’ve demonstrated major milestones towards commercializing the technology for municipal water systems, industrial filtration, and other applications.

To support the next waves of innovation, we need to examine how the rest of the U.S. — and rest of the world  — will replicate Silicon Valley (and yes, PARC) with its access to top talent, multicultural citizens, venture infrastructure, corporate partners, universities, and inexhaustible energy.

But here’s the thing: two-thirds of our commercial income comes from abroad. Asia, in particular, is aggressively probing for new engines of innovation and understands the seriousness of what’s at stake.

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