Scientist for a Day stirs the innovation pot

By Peter Kerr 05/07/2011 1


There’s a real need to crank up the amount of innovative thinking that goes on in existing businesses.

Given the small size of many Kiwi companies, the bosses are often going to be so busy that they’re swamped simply running the business on a day to day basis.

Being able to think about solving current challenges or dream up new ideas for the business is simply too hard.

Still, that doesn’t mean innovation’s not required.

Which is why IRL’s latest initiative, Scientist for a Day is clever thinking.

The chance to have someone from outside the business, who has some different insights and understandings around physics, chemistry, applied mathematics or applied engineering is a great opportunity.

IRL’s had its SFAD competition open for the past month.

Commercial manager Gavin Mitchell says the 30 days the research institute had to ‘give away’ have been oversubscribed.

‘Most of the applications are going to take more than one day’s worth of science,’ he says. ‘The applications describe what the problem looks like and what they want to get involved with.’

Mitchell says the challenges come from across the spectrum of manufacturing and are specific to their businesses.

Those lucky enough to obtain the services of a SFAD will be selected in the third week of July, and find out whether they’ve been successful at the end of the month.

The ‘day’, (which could be more than this) will then be arranged.

What sticK likes about this idea is bigger than simply the visit and report by a scientist……and of course the possible follow on, chargeable work that could benefit IRL.

And, sure there’s a risk that the scientist doesn’t come up with any new breakthrough, any actual solution.

In the first instance, so what? It hasn’t cost the company any hard cash, and just as importantly, has got it thinking wider than the day to day.

More importantly, it is helping to create a bit of a national buzz, generate the notion over and above the competition itself, that there’s value in thinking creatively, using others peoples’ smsrts to help solve your own problems and come up with new ways of making money.

IRL in this regard is helping to alert many companies as to the significance of having some critically applied thinking at their disposal. Industrial Research is helping to stir the pot for everyone.

What’s the bet that other research bodies and engineering companies and various consultants get a inquiring phone call, ‘can we have a look at?…..is it possible to?….I’ve been thinking about,’ as a result of IRL’s initiative?

I’m sure they’ll all pay IRL a finders fee!


One Response to “Scientist for a Day stirs the innovation pot”

  • I’ve no idea who is lining up for these services, but a free technology consultant service may look less attractive to some management if they have to contact their insurer.

    ” Indemnity
    Each Successful Applicant indemnifies IRL for any losses suffered by IRL as a result of the provision of Services to that Applicant.”

    It doesn’t seem like an auspicious start, but I could be surprised.
    My customers may ask about my public and professional liability insurance when I work for them….

    My limited experience has been that NZ technology businesses don’t routinely use technology consultants that cost money, and who usually are required to solve/mitigate immediate distress.

    Often businesses use in-house, supplier or customer resources to resolve technology and innovation issues, which is smart, sensible, and often low cost. It will be interesting to see what benefits eventuate from this programme, as opposed to similar programmes where companies had to contribute resources to use government scientists..

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