Speaking about the complex ways a huge multinational corporation evolves in a global marketplace, one fact in Currie Boyle’s talk at Thursday’s Colorado Innovation Summit stood out.

Boyle, chief architect at IBM’s Vancouver Innovation Center, told the audience that companies should expect to have to replace 30 percent of its revenue stream every two years due to product obsolescence, changes in the marketplace or the success of competitors.



“You always have to have somebody working on the next thing,” Boyle said.



How companies do that and translate it into successful business is the core of the two-day gathering, organized by Louisville-based DaVinci Institute.



The first day of the summit, held in Thornton, drew about 100 members from the region’s computer, biotechnology, energy and insurance industries as well government representatives.



For a 380,000-employee company like IBM, which spends billions annually on research, ensuring innovation includes ideas from everywhere within the organization is an enormous obstacle, Boyle said.



The culture that spawns innovation may run counter to habits established by company’s proven successes, Boyle said. Nurturing a supportive environment for employees at the fringes of an organization may be key to allowing new, potentially successful ideas to flourish.



“It’s heresy,” Boyle said, “but innovation is brutally hard when it’s coming from people at the fringes and they have no power.”



Getting buy-in from researchers at the cutting edge of innovation often means keeping research teams relatively small so teamwork and collaboration can lead to creation, said William Marshall, executive vice president of research and operations at Dharmacon, a Lafayette biotechnology producer of RNA material for pharmaceutical experiments and drug development.



“I don’t care how smart a scientist is, a team is smarter,” Marshall said.



He recommended allowing researchers to spend a fifth of their time on projects of their own invention to help generate the kind of “disruptive innovation” that leads to inventions.



During lunch, Drew Crouch, vice president of strategic development for Boulder-based Ball Aerospace and Technologies, captured attendees’ attention with a visual presentation on the development of the space industry.



Crouch’s company develops parts for satellites and space exploration vehicles sent into space as part of the large public-private space industry.



Entrepreneurial involvement in the nation’s space program reach a low ebb in the 1980s and 1990s, he said. That has changed in recent years, and much of the innovation in the industry’s immediate future seems destined to come from private companies, Crouch said.



He pointed to the emergence of high-tech industry leaders who have funded companies trying to make low-orbit aerospace more accessible, dubbing them the Star Trek generation.



“These are nerds who like space and who’ve got a lot of money,” Crouch said.



Their involvement could energize the public imagination for innovation in the space program in a way that hasn’t been seen since its earliest days.



China’s government has joined the United States and Russia in having programs that put people in space. Crouch predicted a private company — probably American — will be the fourth entity to achieve that milestone.



If government regulation can be friendly to private space development and the nation’s leadership remains supportive of the space program, such efforts could yield large technological advances and make deep space exploration more affordable, he said.



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