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'High caliber' SPIE Photonics Innovation Summit speakers illuminate paths to technology R&D success

Event chair Steve Eglash, right, welcomes keynote speaker Henry Chesbrough to the podium at the SPIE Photonics Innovation Summit.

BELLINGHAM, WA, USA - 11 November 2008 - The modern world is the result of innovations developed under a model that no longer works, and companies that want to progress need to employ a new paradigm of collaboration, reiterated speakers at the SPIE Photonics Innovation Summit on 6 November in the San Francisco-Silicon Valley area.

That central message, illustrated by examples of how innovation works under the new open paradigm, was well-received by the audience of CEOs, CTOs, and other industry and venture capital executives, who said they found the summit of very high value.

"What a great event," said Aubrey Helms, Jr., President and CEO of Tiger Venture Analysis. "The speakers and the attendees were extremely high caliber."

Steve Eglash, Event Chair, observed that the event was unique in presenting the science of innovation in the context of surveys of the past, present, and future of three dynamic fields: solar energy, biophotonics, and solid state lighting. "Attendees heard about how to stimulate innovation through risk taking, discovery, and commercialization in their own organizations, and about the advantages of open innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration."

"The Photonics Innovation Summit is a natural extension of SPIE's ongoing mission to foster connections among researchers, applications inventors, system developers, and funding sources," said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. "SPIE conferences and exhibitions have always provided important forums for presenting technology advances that help fuel the economy and provide solutions to the many challenges facing today's world in areas such as infrastructure, sustainable energy and lighting, and medical advances.

"In many ways, SPIE forums and publications illustrate the effectiveness of the open innovation process, providing opportunity for sharing of ideas across disciplines as well as throughout the research, development, and implementation stages."

The upcoming SPIE Photonics West symposium, with 1,100 exhibiting companies and 17,000 total attendance, is an example of that synergy. The annual event will be held 24-29 January at the San Jose, CA, Convention Center.

SPIE will publish available content from presentations at the SPIE Photonics Innovation Summit in the online SPIE Newsroom.

The Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and the Center for Executive Education and the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), cooperated in organizing the event, which was held at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Hotel.

Creativity with purpose

Keynote speaker John Kao defined innovation as "creativity applied to purpose that generates value," and pointed out that companies and countries that do not innovate do not progress.

Kao, author of Innovation Nation, is an entrepreneur who taught at Harvard Business School for 14 years and is considered a leading authority on innovation and organizational transformation.

He singled out Finland and Singapore as countries that are leading the pack in "racing for the innovation high ground," through successfully blending different types of knowledge and attracting talent in order to gain leadership in strategic fields.

Keynote speaker Henry Chesbrough, author of Open Innovation and Executive Director of the Center for Open Innovation at UCB, said that a vital key to success in today's world is seeking technology and ideas from outside as well as inside a company, and spinning out products for new as well as established markets.

Companies need to realize that "no one has a monopoly on useful knowledge," and that financial managers must "play chess as well as poker," i.e., plan several moves ahead in light of what is known about the competition, as well as pay for new information from the outside and be able to operate in an environment of ongoing discovery.

Keynoter Robert Byer, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Applied Physics at Stanford University, said that allowing and even celebrating failure as well as success are important attributes of companies with successful innovation track records. He illustrated how giving well-educated students the freedom to experiment has been a decisive factor in many successes in Silicon Valley.

Funding for progress

Government funding program directors and venture capitalists talked about opportunities supporting current innovation efforts.

Marc Stanley, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Technology Innovation Program (TIP), detailed how that grants program for early-stage, high-risk, high-reward research projects aims to strengthen the United States' ability to be competitive globally. He said that TIP is looking for projects that address challenges not already being addressed and with strong potential for advancing the state of the art and contributing to the U.S. science and technology base. Under TIP, "scientific and technological merit is critical," not well-developed business plans, Stanley said.

John Lushetsky, Program Manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technology Program (SETP), said that SETP's goal is to drive the cost of solar electricity to grid parity by 2015. Lushetsky talked about potentials of photovoltaics and of concentrating solar power, and outlined the Solar America Cities program in which SETP partners with cities committed to achieving sustainable solar city-wide infrastructure. In effect, he said, the 25 participating cities serve as living laboratories for testing methods to overcome barriers to solar commercialization.

The open innovation environment is a powerful accelerator that is not going away and requires an open mindset within and across companies, said Jennifer Ernst, Director of Business Development at PARC. She cited numerous examples of projects at PARC aimed at creating new capabilities, demonstrating proof-of-concept, and shaping ideas into commercial opportunities. Applications are identified by PARC, the client, or jointly, and often involve novel designs for specific applications.

Ernst said that any innovation requires a connection between technical possibilities and customer needs. "I believe getting close to the market as early as possible is the cornerstone of accelerating innovation."

Growth in the solar market is continuing at an aggressive pace along with the capital being invested, said Terry Jester, Principal at Hudson Clean Energy Partners. Jester said that some 800 companies are investing in clean technologies, and highlighted a number of success stories from the past several years. She noted differences among the four PV systems currently competing in the market -- crystalline silicon, flat plate thin film, flexible thin film, and high concentration PV systems -- and that crystalline silicon had almost 90% of market share through 2007.

Breakout sessions provided perspectives of technology industry experts on recent successful innovations and challenges.

Solar energy presenters included:
· Richard Swanson, President and CTO of SunPower
· Peter Borden, Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at Applied Materials
· Scott Elrod, Vice President and Director of PARC's Hardware Systems Labs.

Biophotonics talks were presented by:
· David Benaron, CEO of Spectros Corporation
· Jean-Luc Vanderheyden, Global Molecular Imaging Leader for GE Healthcare
· Barbara Paldus, CEO of Finesse.

Experts speaking on next-generation lighting were:
· Peter Visser, Project Manager for the OLLA Project, Philips Lighting
· George Craford, CTO of Lumileds.

Photo caption, above right: Event chair Steve Eglash, right, welcomes keynote speaker Henry Chesbrough to the podium at the SPIE Photonics Innovation Summit.

About SPIE

SPIE is the international optics and photonics society founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. Serving the interests of its more than 188,000 active constituents representing 138 different countries, SPIE acts as a catalyst for collaboration among technical disciplines for information exchange, continuing education, publishing opportunities, patent precedent, and career and professional growth. As the organizer and sponsor of approximately 25 major conferences and education programs annually in North America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific, SPIE provides publishing, speaking, and learning opportunities on emerging technologies.SPIE contributes more than $1.6 million annually in scholarships, grants, and other programs supporting research and education around the world.For more information, visit SPIE.org.