Innovation Article

Multiple Authors
By: Joerg Niessing, Fred Geyer

A new digital era of business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing is upon us. It’s driven by corporate customer demand for online access to their suppliers’ offerings and expertise. Taking advantage of this shift is challenging because it requires moving from deeply embedded B2B sales and marketing models to data-driven, digitally powered partnerships between sales, marketing, and analytics.

The rewards of digital demand generation—a pivotal piece of the B2B digital transformation puzzle—can be significant. For example, GE Healthcare Life Sciences, a biopharma business, grew by building an extensive digital demand-generation operation that engages researchers through thought-leadership content and software, allows customers to fulfill orders through an e-commerce portal, and supports online research into unique, custom biological agents. In March 2020, Danaher completed the purchase of the business, what is now called Cytiva, for 17 times the firm’s 2019 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA).

Nader Moayeri’s picture

By: Nader Moayeri

I am part of a grassroots effort at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that is developing an exposure notification system for pandemics in general, though we hope it could be used in at least a limited fashion during the current Covid-19 pandemic. We are fortunate at NIST to have all the expertise required to tackle this multidisciplinary problem, solutions to which have the potential to save many lives and hasten economic recovery by helping to reopen our nation.

Contact tracing has been used to blunt the spread of pandemics since the 19th century. In its usual form, health workers conduct interviews with folks who have tested positive for the infectious disease to find out whom they have been in contact with during a certain period before testing. They also learn the length of time people were together and how close they got to one another. The health worker then traces those contacts to let them know they may have been exposed so that they can self-isolate or get tested. This process can be slow and labor-intensive and may not identify every contact. It relies on the infected person remembering all their contacts and the health worker being able to locate those individuals in a timely fashion to stop them from further spreading the disease.

Klaus Wertenbroch’s picture

By: Klaus Wertenbroch

From a customer perspective, the only thing more frustrating than being denied a product or service is when that denial comes without a satisfactory explanation. As humans, our ability to deal with disappointment depends on understanding why it happened. Without an acceptable rationale, we’re apt to assume the worst: deliberate disrespect, and blind prejudice.

This aspect of consumer psychology may create problems for companies relying on decision-making algorithms for vetting purposes, fraud prevention, and general customer service. We’re seeing widening adoption of AI in fields such as marketing and financial services. On balance, this is great news, allowing companies to serve customers with unprecedented speed and predictive precision. However, while bots beat humans hands down at making accurate decisions at scale, their communication skills (so far, anyway) leave much to be desired. As algorithms assume a more prominent role as gatekeepers, where will rejected customers turn for an adequate explanation? And how can companies provide one without revealing too much about their proprietary algorithms—which are, very often, essential IP?

Robert Sanders’s picture

By: Robert Sanders

The U.S. Department of Defense and more than 80 companies, universities, states, and research institutes will invest at least $275 million during the next seven years to scale up the microbial production of biomolecules. The effort will enable a growing biomanufacturing industry to supply a broad range of businesses with large quantities of chemicals at the low prices necessary to make them competitive with petroleum-based alternatives.

Biomolecules on the market today are mostly drugs or fragrances made by small-batch fermentation in yeast or bacteria, a process much like that of a craft brewery. The goal of the public-private partnership, the Bioindustrial Manufacturing and Design Ecosystem (BioMADE), is to employ the same principles of genetic engineering and engineering biology used in the pharmaceutical industry to produce chemicals other than drugs on a scale similar to that used to ferment corn into ethanol for transportation. The new bioindustrial manufacturing innovation institute was announced on Oct. 20, 2020, by the Department of Defense (DoD).

Anju Dave Vaish’s picture

By: Anju Dave Vaish

T his year’s unprecedented lockdown happened just as we started moving forward with our 2020 goals. There has been a lot of speculation about Covid-19 and its consequences, much of it dire, but there has also been something that has kept us all rolling: the human mindset. With constraints come new creative ideas.

Our imagination, creativity, and innovation helps to lead us far away from stagnation, depression, and pessimism. According to Nielson India, there was a 44-percent rise in social media usage during the lockdown. There also was a 72-percent increase in ad content by influencers.

This year, in the midst of us all running to meet goals, climbing up career ladders, acquiring more, selling more, or aspiring for materialistic gains, Covid-19 suddenly arrived and put the brakes on all of it. For the first time in decades, Himalayan peaks became visible from many nearby cities, twittering birds could be heard, and deer wandered into urban areas. Perhaps this was a sincere greeting from nature—and a request to humans to learn to coexist?

Eric Whitley’s picture

By: Eric Whitley

Any company that decides to enter the mattress business is no doubt entranced by one undeniable fact: Everybody needs one.

Those companies that start producing and selling mattresses also quickly run into a harsh fact: Everybody already has one.

Purple saw opportunity. It looked at the positives and the negatives of the mattress business, and decided the only way to succeed was to be better than everyone else. Better innovators, better manufacturers, better fulfillment specialists. Simply put, Purple had to change the game.

So, it did. Purple is a comfort technology company that designs and manufactures products to help people feel and live better through innovative comfort solutions. Purple designs and manufactures a range of comfort technology products, including mattresses, pillows, and seat cushions. Brothers Tony and Terry Pearce, both engineers, founded Purple.

Their quest to design and build the world's best mattress resulted in an incredibly responsive, pliable, strong material called hyper-elastic polymer. They had a game-changing innovation; now, they just had to build it.

Judith Su’s picture

By: Judith Su

My Little Sensor Lab at the University of Arizona develops ultrasensitive optical sensors for medical diagnostics, medical prognostics, environmental monitoring, and basic science research. Our sensor technology identifies substances by shining light on samples and measuring the index of refraction, or how much light is slowed down when it passes through a material that is different from one substance to another—say, water and a DNA molecule.

The big idea

Our technology lets us detect extremely low concentrations of molecules down to one in a million-trillion molecules and can give results in under 30 seconds.

Ordinarily, index of refraction is too subtle to detect in a single molecule, but using a technology we developed, we can pass light through a sample thousands of times, which amplifies the change. This makes our sensor among the most sensitive in existence.

The device includes a tiny ring that light races around—240,000 times in 40 nanoseconds, or billionths of a second. A liquid sample surrounds the sensor. Some of the light extends outside of the ring, where it interacts with the sample thousands of times.

Gleb Tsipursky’s picture

By: Gleb Tsipursky

Does the phrase “garbage in—garbage out” (GIGO) ring a bell? That’s the idea that if you use flawed, low-quality information to inform your decisions and actions, you’ll end up with a rubbish outcome. Yet despite the popularity of the phrase, we see such bad outcomes informed by poor data all the time.

In one of the worst recent business disasters, two crashes of Boeing’s 737 Max airplane killed 346 people and led to Boeing losing more than $25 billion in market capitalization as well as more than $5 billion in direct revenue. We know from internal Boeing emails that many Boeing employees in production and testing knew about the quality problems with the design of the 737 Max; a number communicated these problems to the senior leadership.

However, as evidenced by the terrible outcome, the data collection and dissemination process at Boeing failed to take in such information effectively. The leadership instead relied on falsely optimistic evidence of the safety of the 737 Max in their rush to compete with the Airbus A320 model, which was increasingly outcompeting Boeing’s offerings.

Hamza Mudassir’s picture

By: Hamza Mudassir

Disney has announced a significant restructuring of its media and entertainment business, boldly placing most of its growth ambitions and investments into its recently launched streaming service, Disney+. The 97-year-old media conglomerate is now more like Netflix than ever before.

What this means is that Disney will be reducing its focus from (and potentially the investments routed to) theme parks, cruises, cinema releases, and cable TV. As CEO Bob Chapek says: “Given the incredible success of Disney+ and our plans to accelerate our direct-to-consumer business, we are strategically positioning our company to more effectively support our growth strategy and increase shareholder value.”

Multiple Authors
By: Erik Fogelman, Jeff Orszak

With the increasing power of digital technology, the idea of a connected manufacturing system that can sense, analyze, and respond will soon be a reality. This idea—called “intelligent edge”—combines computing power, data analytics, and advanced connectivity to allow responses to be made much closer to where the data are captured. It takes emerging internet of things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 capabilities to the next level.

Cybersecurity plays a complex role in this vision. On one hand, technological advances can lead to improved cybersecurity capabilities. On the other hand, when built without a consideration for privacy, data integrity, or network resilience, such technological advances can instead increase cyber risks dramatically.

The capabilities that enable the intelligent edge include artificial intelligence (AI), computing hardware, networking capabilities, and standard protocols. Advances in these capabilities have converged to help tie together components that accelerate the realization of Industry 4.0. Here are the key components that enable new ways of working, new products and services, and new value creation.

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