Archive | March 2013

UK invests £12 million in manufacturing IT innovation

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The UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has announced £12 million in new funding for six research projects looking at IT innovation in manufacturing.

The six IT-related projects are as follows:

  • Cloud manufacturing (£2.4 million) – led by the University of Nottingham, this project will apply the principles of cloud computing to allow manufacturers to share design and process resources.
  • Decision support for chemicals manufacturing (£2.5 million) – a collaboration between the University of Strathclyde and Loughborough University, this project will develop software for analysing data from sensors used in the chemicals manufacturing process. The aim is to allow certain chemicals to be produced using continuous, rather than discrete, processes.
  • Crowdsourced food and packaging design (£1.8) – this Notthingham and Brunel University project will develop IT tools that allow manufacturers to include customers in their product design and development processes.
  • Simulating services in 3D (£1.5 million) – this Aston, Sheffield and Coventry University project aims to aid manufacturers as they move from product-centric to services-based business models by 3D developing virtual world in which those services can be simulated.
  • Complex project analysis (£1.9 million) – the University of Bath project aims to improve complex, collaborative engineering projects by analysing the way the parties work together through email, computer-aided design (CAD)
  • Improved information systems (£1.9) – Led by Loughborough University, this project aims to improve the availability of information throughout the manufacturing supply chain by developing “intelligent software services”.

Six Sigma ‘killed’ innovation in 3M

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Firms must define innovation and how it fits into the company’s objectives. They should then provide the right support and avoid rigid processes hindering the creative process, says former 3M exec behind the Post-It note.

It is important to provide the leadership and then people know that they can practise innovation. That is part of the problem, people are afraid of failure. Maybe it’s because of ‘losing face’ in an Asian society, but the fact of the matter is, failure is not failure. I would rather call it a learning experience

The 3M ambassador also outlined pitfalls companies should avoid in order not to stifle creativity:

  • Asking for a 5-year plan
  • Insisting people go through all levels with a new idea
  • Being control-conscious
  • Expressing criticism and withholding praise
  • Being suspicious of every idea that originates below you
  • Making a decision to reorganize in secret and maximize surprise

Initially what would happen in 3M with Six Sigma people, they would say they need a five-year business plan for a new idea. Come on, we don’t know yet because we don’t know how it works, we don’t know how many customers will take it up, we haven’t taken it out to the customer yet.

However, the 3M ambassador pointed out he had nothing against the Six Sigma, but felt it was not ideal for the creative process. “I met the guy who in fact put Six Sigma together and I said to him, ‘What about innovation? Because at 3M right now we are having problems–we’re being asked about Six Sigma and trying to utilize it in the creative stage’. He said it was never designed for that, it was designed for manufacturing when starting to scale up a product,” said Nicholson.

Financial Innovation: new fund to benefit currency dynamics from PIMCO

PIMCO

PIMCO, an Allianz company & a leading global investment management firm, has listed the PIMCO Foreign Currency Strategy Exchange Traded Fund (Ticker: FORX), created to offer investors the potential to benefit from fundamental changes in global currency dynamics by diversifying away from the dollar.

Rising debt levels, limited fiscal flexibility and easy monetary policy in the U.S. may weigh on the dollar for years. FORX is a portfolio of currencies and local currency bonds actively managed to help investors diversify out of the dollar and preserve their purchasing power. The active management is a notable difference for an ETF marketplace made up mostly of passive products in which investors generally must form their own views on individual currencies or currency indexes.

PIMCO has decades of experience managing currencies on behalf of large institutional clients and has deep executional ability in the multi-trillion-dollar foreign currency market. Strategic allocations across developed and emerging currencies are based on the firm’s investment outlook, which includes macroeconomic insights formulated by the firm’s Investment Committee and based on the output of cyclical and secular economic forums.

Food is ripe for innovation

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The global population is on track to reach 9 billion by 2050. What are all those people going to eat?

We need to find new ways to deliver protein and calories to everyone. Our approach to food hasn’t changed much over the last 100 years. We need to look for new ways to raise nutrition in the poor world while shifting some of our choices in the wealthy world.

Fortunately, there are thousands of plant proteins in the world, and many of them have yet to be explored for use in the production of meat alternatives. Food is ripe for Innovation.

Emerging Markets: Opportunities for Energy Innovation

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Emerging markets provide attractive opportunities for innovative energy systems. The competitive advantage of renewable over traditional energy sources is greater than in developed countries. However, socio-economic, cultural, and policy issues might interfere with the innovation process in these countries.

The green revolution must include and empower women. According to Katherine Lucey, founder & CEO of Solar Sister, the main cultural barrier for energy innovation in Africa is gender. Women need access to electricity to bring progress in the community.

Brazil is an emerging global leader in the renewable energy industry, gaining this position by implementing favorable policies and market mechanisms, such as reverse auctions, aimed to remove financial barriers for the energy innovation progress. Today, wind energy represents 25% of Brazilian market share and Lauro Fiuza, VP for International Relations of ABEEolica, said the next step will be bringing solar to the same level, thus creating a complementary system that will make renewables a major power generation source in Brazil.

In developing countries, solar and wind energy are already cost competitive. Technological, financial, and policy innovations are creating win-win conditions for renewables and bringing national energy independence. Although there is not a right set of energy policies for every country, Dr. Kelly Sims Gallagher, associate professor of energy and environment policy at Tufts University, said those countries experimenting with policy solutions – e.g. China – are better positioned than countries spending too much time deciding the right strategy to implement.

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Worldwide Projected Tablet Market Share Projection – Q1 2013

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Using the data from December & January, we get the following market share split by platform.

This projection is likely to be somewhat conservative for Android tablets. Display shipments in February are likely to be closer to January’s figures, as compared to December, which puts the iPad’s market share under even more pressure.

In addition to this, rising demand from emerging markets is likely to continue to boost Android tablet shipments. Meanwhile, Windows 8/RT tablets seem to be following in Windows Phone’s footsteps.

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Deutsche Post DHL wins German Industry Innovation Award

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Deutsche Post DHL has just been awarded the German Industry Innovation Award (“Innovationspreis der Deutschen Wirtschaft”) in the category of “innovative HR concepts” for its Generations Pact, a trend-setting model for designing and facilitating age-based working solutions.

The award pays tribute to the most significant scientific, technical, business and intellectual innovations and was presented for the 32nd time during a festive event. This year, nearly 300 companies competed in four categories for the coveted prize, which is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.

In October of 2011, Deutsche Post AG and the German trade union ver.di agreed upon a trend-setting model which makes it possible for older employees to actively participate in professional life until they reach the age of legal retirement.

Specifically, through the Generations Pact, the “working-time accounts” and a demography fund serve as a supplement to the partial retirement program. Working-time accounts give employees the opportunity to save up a credit balance during the active working phase and redeem it before they enter retirement. The Bonn-based company Deutsche Post DHL offers attractive models – including financial ones – for older employees that allow them to continue working at reduced hours until the age of retirement.

At the same time, the Generations Pact improves employment opportunities for young people: Last year, some 1,300 trainees received job offers at the company, approximately 25 percent more than the prior year. In the summer of 2013, all suitable trainees will once again be offered permanent employment status at the company.

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3D printing research showcased on top industry innovation list

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3D printing has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing processes in a vast number of fields and that includes objects both big and very, very small. The US-based Society of Manufacturing Engineers has highlighted KTH research into 3D printing of nanoscale silicon structures as one of 10 top manufacturing innovations for 2013.

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) connects researchers with industry experts and other resources worldwide, working to spread manufacturing knowledge among its 24 000 members, representing 21 000 companies worldwide, and the broader manufacturing community in fields from aerospace to energy to medicine.

Every year SME honors 10 new and emerging technologies that have the potential to make an impact on manufacturing processes. The 2013 list includes KTH research into 3D printing of silicon nanostructures used to manufacture photonic and silicon micro-sensor products in low volumes at an affordable cost.

Today, producing silicon-based sensors at a micro- or nanoscale requires a full-scale clean-room laboratory, which can cost several million euros. These labs are also rarely suitable for small-scale manufacturing, as the production technology is usually optimised for large production volumes running into hundreds of millions of devices.

The technology developed at KTH consists of an additive layer-by-layer process for defining 3D patterns in silicon, using a focused ion beam, followed by silicon deposition. The layered 3D silicon structures are defined by repeating these two steps over and over, with a final etching step in which the excess silicon material is dissolved away. In the team’s vision of the future, the structure would first be designed in a 3D drawing programme then sent to a 3D printer that recreates the structure in silicon, layer by layer from the bottom up.

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Why you need to industrialize your Mobile Center of Excellence

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Scaling innovation certainly does pose challenges – particularly when it comes to mobile, unless mobile is at the heart of your innovation strategy.

Today, the top 5 devices activated are iPhones and iPads and enterprise adoption of smartphones is reaching 80%. App development has also accelerated. Companies who were experimenting with a handful of business apps are now deploying dozens or even hundreds of apps. And organizations that were once considered early adopters are now joining the majority. Given the proliferation and impact of mobile, it’s easy to see why scaling mobile innovation is now critical.

But how do you accomplish this? And what role should your Mobile Center of Excellence (MCoE) play? There are four obstacles that may be standing in your way:

1. Putting All Your Apps In One Basket

Mobility is a channel, not only a technology. With expansive proliferation of mobile apps, mobile stores, point solutions and platforms, there is a significant risk of investing in the wrong place – or putting all your eggs in one basket — a point made amply clear by the high rates of mobile app abandonment after first use.

2. Organization Without Representation

How do you organize and operate to drive mobile innovation within your enterprise? What kinds of operating models can capture the strategy and innovation cycles of your mobile effort while also accommodating the sometimes-stormy implementation and survival phase? Identifying influential mobile stakeholders will help you uncover ottom-up alignment opportunities amongst those who drive and support use case decisions.

3. A Use Case is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Today with mobile, the transformation focus is shifting to business user behavior and engagement. Finding the right way to engage users or customers can direct process change and subsequently transform entire businesses and industries. Use cases that leverage mobile technology and provide the right level of business orientation ultimately become the strategic use cases that truly matter.

4. Not Innovating Innovation

To realize the true power of mobility, especially Enterprise Mobility, the innovation process must be ongoing. It needs to focus on finding, building, managing and operating the right mobile portfolio at a predictable cost while also evolving with the needs of your users.

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Singapore Institution Establishes Innovation Centre

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Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) in Singapore, has partnered with Samsung to drive research in new educational environments, mobile applications, and retail technology.

Samsung and NYP have signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding to establish the ‘Samsung Digital Convergence and Mobility Innovation Centre’ at NYP, equipped with smart devices, large format display screens, and interactive surfaces from Samsung. R&D in the three areas will be conducted by staff and students from NYP.

The Centre is expected to be operational by October this year.

Collaborative Learning

The first pillar of the Innovation Centre is new learning environments. Research in this area is meant to help NYP stay up-to-date with the massive changes taking place in education today, and meet increasingly sophisticated expectations from learners and employees, and the rising demands from industry.

Smart Device Application Development

The second area that research at the Centre will focus on is emerging mobile technologies. Students will have the opportunity to create applications for devices such as Smart TVs, tablets, and smartphones, in areas such as near-field communications for retail and location-based advertising for businesses.

Retail Solutions

The third area that research at the Centre will focus on is retail technology, starting in 2014. The Singapore Institute of Retail Studies (SIRS) at NYP will collaborate with Samsung through the Centre to develop innovative technology and business solutions that enhance customer experience and business outcomes.

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