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Innovation In China and Asia is getting hot.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on November 27, 2005

I’m off to an innovation and design conference in China put on by Patrick Whitney of the Institute of Design. Some 150 business people and designers, half from China and half from the US, Europe and Japan, will be in Beijing for two days, Dec. 1 and 2—plus trips to Shanghai to visit Motorola, SPoint, and other design meccas. My hat is off to Patrick. This is his second conference in a month.

The last one was made infamous by Michael Bierut and his brilliant observation that designers now talk of themselves as innovators. It created a storm in the design world and enormous comment in the innovation world—two worlds that overlap but are not the same.

In China, I’m moderating a panel debate between and which should be terrific. They are the top internet sites in China, Sina being one of the first, Baidu just having a very rich IPO. Everyone says that Sina is more a portal like Yahoo and Baidu is more a search engine like Google but then everyone also says they are morphing together and doing both search and content. We’ll see. There’s an interesting discussion of Baidu at Innovation—Business Innovation, a blog set up to plug a Fortune conference on Innovation. I don’t know much about the conference but the site is good and I hope it remains after the conference passes. It quotes Andrew McKay who is studying at Tsinghua. McKay talked to the R&D guys at Baidu.

One last word before taking off. Patrick Whitney is beta testing a software program for ethnography that is potentially explosive. Ethnography is now the new market research—and the data is getting the same treatment (thrown into the drawer and forgotten). There is so much out there, people can’t cope. In addition, ethnographic research is generally very expensive. So you have expensive data that people ignore.

Whitney’s program systemitizes ethnographic information that can be collected by others on the ground overseas. The program makes anthropolgical data comparable in different categories over time and place. Whitney used it when he had people in India do ethnographic work and had them send it along to his researchers in Chicago. He says it is 10% as expensive as regular ethnographic research and about 70% as good. That may be good enough. It will be out of beta testing by next year, he promises.

See you in Beijing, Patrick.

Reader Comments


November 30, 2005 6:56 AM

It sounds like you will have a pretty busy trip, but if you want to meet for a coffee or something let me know while you are in town. I never heard of this conference, I'm more of a 'business guy' now that I'm in business school, but I spent a lot of time in the trenches writing HTML, JavaScript, Java etc.

My Mac is dead so I'm stuck using random windows machines in internet cafes. I may regret it, but the information is already on my resume so what the hell...

My cellphone number in China is 13241808623, I can receive SMS's on it but not full fledged emails. I don't speak that much Chinese but I know a fair few Chinese people if you need some help while in Beijing.

Feel free to give me a call if you need something.


April 7, 2011 12:56 PM

The Understated Contributor to International Economic Recovery

While R&D topics continue to lead as a beacon for economic recovery, a crucial part of the R&D process continues to receive little to no attention. And make no mistake, you are about to learn of the single most important factor in the advancement of new or improved material technologies around the world.
As industries such as Energy, Medical, Electronics, Automotive and countless others continue to make headlines for their effort to improve and advance high-tech products, still nothing is mentioned about the core reason why all of this is made possible. Understand, for every improvement with an existing material or for every new material developed, a new measurement technique is used to better understand core behaviors leading to specific end-product results. For example, cement products which have been tested for years on the macro level for strength and weaknesses are now in a quick evolution because of new instrumentation. It is now the Nano scale particles being tested to improve various properties of cement by evaluating the effects at the nano scale and the direct implication to the macro scale. Cement is just one example of the evolution happening with our materials, this is a process that is currently spanning across all material industries, from metals to plastics, to ceramics to biomaterials. Basically, material formulas are being rewritten with the help of this new instrumentation that is also in continuous evolution. This instrumentation not only provides the way for new products but has also led to an emergence of a new industry of growing Nanotechnology instrumentation.

For example, Nanovea, a Nanotechnology Instrument manufacturer based in Irvine CA, has tailored its instrumentation (Profilometers, Mechanical Testers & Tribometers) to meet this growing need for solutions to improve materials in various industries. From advanced Nano Mechanical Testers for Nanoindentation and Scratch & Wear Testing to precision Non Contact Profiling Systems, Nanovea is keeping at the forefront of instrumentation to support global product advancement. The success of Nanovea is linked to the growing need of all industries to improve materials by understanding and controlling properties such as hardness, scratch/wear resistance, roughness, flatness, and many others. By providing this measurement capability Nanovea enables Energy, Medical, Electronics, Automotive and countless others to making advances needed to extend economic recovery through R&D. Ultimately allowing industries to create more value in existing products and open doors with new. Meanwhile it was quietly made possible by instrumentation such as those designed by Nanovea.

You're not familiar with a brand like Nanovea because almost all of their work involves NDA's, non disclosure agreement, so the users of their instrumentation and or breakthroughs made possible are rarely released. Or most may never know or care why the hardness of their golf ball allowed them to make the green, or why their cell phone screen no longer scratches, or that their tires last longer from wear resistance and that the surface roughness of a biomedical implant was crucial to its success. Like most technology the importance is its use not how it was made possible. But if there ever was a time that "how it was made possible" was important it would be now. Our global economy is currently depending on advances and new products to build on recovery. Thanks to companies like Nanovea, it's being measured at a Nano level to ensure intended results.

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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