SciBlogs

Archive March 2012

The 7 Deadly Sins get an innovative makeover Peter Kerr Mar 29

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As a bit of a sucker for an allegory, attaching thoughts about innovation to the seven deadly sins is a clever ploy and play.

That said though I’d be hard-pressed to name them (pride, sloth, gluttony, lust, envy, wrath, greed).

Scott Anthony directs the Asia-Pacific office of Innosight, and has recently published a book ‘The Little Black Book of Innovation: How it Works, How to Do It’.

Innovation Excellence highlighted the 7 Deadly Sins in a recent blog by Matthew E May (see here).

These sins have a strong parallel with the ‘Ten Design Principles’ by Designindustry’s Dorenda Britten, which provide a way to carry out a holistic development of a new product or service. See the sticK story here where Britten maintains that Kiwis have to learn to identify and kill bad ideas.

But, given the attractions of its allegorical nature, here’s the 7 Deadly Sins of Innovation laid out in sticK.

1. Pride
The sin of pride innovation is forcing your view of quality onto the marketplace, which often results in overshooting. The easiest way to avoid the sin of pride is by taking an external viewpoint to make sure you understand how the customer measures quality. Make sure you are grounded in what the market wants, not what you want.

2. Sloth
Are your innovation efforts slowing to a crawl? That’s sloth. More often than not, innovation simply takes too long. By the time a company gets around to doing something, the window of opportunity has closed. Why does innovation take so long? It’s not really laziness. It’s that people work on the wrong activities, typically by prioritizing analysis over action. It’s all too easy to fill your day with activities that make it feel as if you are making progress tackling a problem.
Avoid it by releasing your inner Edison: ‘genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.

3. Gluttony
Gluttony is suffering from an addiction to abundant resources and leads to overly slow, overly linear innovation efforts. Deep pockets allow companies to spend too many resources following the wrong strategy. They throw bodies against a problem, but everyone knows that small teams typically move faster than large teams.Avoid it by practicing selective scarcity: constrain resources in the early stages of innovation to enable creativity.

4. Lust
It’s easy to get tempted and distracted by pursuing too many bells and whistles, too many bright, shiny objects. Avoid it by focusing your innovation efforts, remembering that destruction often precedes creation. Stopping is as important as starting. Lust after too many things, and you’ll find that you end up with nothing. Good innovators carefully choose the opportunities they go after.

5. Envy
Envy occurs when innovators inside a company proclaim themselves the chosen ones, and create an us-vs-them relationship between your main business and your new growth areas. Remember, without that core business, there is no corporate innovation. Actively celebrate the efforts and successes of both old and new business areas to avoid the sin of Envy.

6. Wrath
A wrathful leader punishes innovation failures, using lines such as ‘Failure is not an option.’ But in innovation failure is most certainly an option. What kind of message does it send if you punish people who take well-thought-out risks that don’t pan out? Beautiful business plans don’t always turn into beautiful businesses. Avoid wrath by rewarding behaviour, not just outcomes.

7. Greed
Greed has its advantage, but innovators need to make sure they are greedy for the right thing. Greed is sinful when you’re being impatient about growth, and can lead to prioritizing low-potential markets and opportunities. If you look for quick growth, you are forced to look to what exists. The best innovators avoid the temptation to go after large, obvious, immediate markets. These people can be patient for growth. They should absolutely be greedy for results that demonstrate that the approach they are following has merits.


Coarse wool’s new course weaving a different path Peter Kerr Mar 27

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New Zealand’s forgotten fibre’s doing its best to get itself off the mat.

Coarse wool’s course over the past five decades has been almost unremittingly down — both in price and perception.

There’s been numerous, mostly ill-fated, attempts to reverse this trend.

A couple of innovative moves last year by the industry might be showing some green shoots of promise however.

1. Wool Research Organisation of NZ Inc/Fahrenheit 212 – new uses venture
2. Wool Industry Research Consortium — new projects (see separate story)

Wool Research contracted New York-based, New Zealander headed Fahrenheit 212 to investigate new market uses for wool at the beginning of last year (see stories here and here). After a hiccup or two, mostly Christchurch earthquake related, F212 reported back last October to self-selecting people who wanted to hear what they’d come up with.

F212 matched coarse wool research products with potential market applications, and came up with the following four areas, (there’s still a bit of confidentiality around this, so apologies for vagueness).

1. Beauty care applications
2. Active apparel applications
3. Bedding
4. Infant care

F212 usually works with large corporates assisting them to identify and develop new products or value propositions. In this wool case a large part of F212’s success fee is seeing new businesses get off the ground and producing products. One of its main recommendations was not to attempt to take a final product through to market, but to produce a new ingredient to on-sell in a business-to-business proposition to marketers. (Goretex, used by many different clothing manufacturers and supporting a US$6 billion market was given as an example).

Well, four months after F212’s Christchurch and Auckland show and tells, commercial propositions for three of the four are being put together.

Four separate groups expressed interest in the beauty care concept.

‘We’re encouraging a value chain approach, linking supply, manufacture and marketing,’ says Wool Research’s general manager Ian Cuthbertson.

Somewhat ironically, and as an aside, as NZ sheep numbers fall, the guarantee of wool supply is something that will have to be carefully monitored.

Cuthbertson says the business cases for all four areas are still being worked on. Wool Research will financially assist the R&D required by the interested parties looking at the opportunities.

Each of the areas requires further investment in R&D as well as commercial analysis to scientifically back up the consumer benefits claimed within the products, and to support development of the market opportunity.

Companies assessing the opportunities are keen to identify appropriate international market linkages before they commit to investment in the concept says Cuthbertson.

The baby product needs more work on its business case in order for NZ industry to consider it a compelling proposition, but it is agreed that this is an area that wool should be excelling in. If necessary, Wool Research will invest further through the wool consortium to flesh out the infant care opportunity, but prefers to do so with the support and direction of a potential commercialising company.

However the concept that has most opened New Zealanders’ eyes has been that of ‘ingredient marketing’.

Making an added value product with attributes and functionality at the right price, and taking this to brand owners isn’t rocket science.

But it hasn’t been done by the NZ wool industry in significant scale — apart from carpet yarn spinners.

Normally we have attempted to export consumer ready goods — a hard thing to succeed in from New Zealand without excellent international distribution networks.

Generating a consumer brand costs heaps; partnering with European and American companies to carry out this end of the operation means value can ideally be produced at the ingredient level in New Zealand says Cuthbertson.

Footnote: sticK has a stronger than average interest in wool, coming off a Southland sheep farm, and having ‘gained experienced (i.e. failed) in a wool product venture, ‘Funkball’ himself (see here for an old website). But, as a product that we do well, there’s potential yet in the fibre and in matching its attributes to different applications. If some of these potential wool ‘ingredients’ take off, sheep farmers and the country will have a significant ‘new’ valuable product.


Optimising autoimmune treatment patent invalid: a ‘Law of Nature’ is not a law passed by Congress Peter Kerr Mar 23

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By guest blogger Doug Calhoun

On 20 March the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a decision unanimously allowing an appeal by the Mayo Clinic and declaring invalid two patents that a lower court had found Mayo to be infringing: (see here)

The background to the invention is described on the web page of one of the inventors: (see here)

In Yves Théoret’s own words:

‘[We study] the relationships that exist between concentrations of medications and their metabolites (medication transformation products) in plasma and blood cells, and therapeutic response, according to genetic characteristics of individuals or a given population (French Canadians, Amerindians, American Blacks, Asians). These characteristics (or polymorphisms) can translate into a deceleration or an acceleration in the enzymatic transformation of medication and/or an amplification or reduction in medicated response on specific tissue sites. By determining these various variables, it is possible to individualize and optimise therapeutic treatment while minimizing toxic effects.’

‘Our studies with thiopurines (6-mercaptopuirine or Purinethol; azathioprine or Imuran) administered to children have made it possible to validate this axiom. Thus, patients with an activity deficiency of a particular transferase enzyme (thiopurine methyltransferase) have higher concentrations of active metabolites (nucleotides of 6-thioguanine) and a higher percentage of therapeutic response than patients who do not have reduced enzymatic activity. The sex and age of the patient are also determining factors when it comes to the pharmacokinetics of the medication and therapeutic response. Facing the obvious impracticality of performing pharmacokinetics (measuring the concentration of the medication and its metabolites per unit of time) on all drugs administered to children with various ailments, we also study the possible relationships between the intensity of the drug dose (quantity administered per unit of time) and the therapeutic response as evaluated by various parameters (white blood cell count, gastric acidity, hepatic enzymes). Specialized software makes it possible to determine these relationships.’

In the words of the patents, the invention ‘provides a method of optimising therapeutic efficacy of 6-mercaptopurine drug treatment of an immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder’ — the goldilocks level of dosage.

The SCOTUS decision (pages 5 and 6) focused on one representative claim (claims define the invention of a patent — the rest is background):

‘A method of optimizing therapeutic efficacy for treatment of an immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder, comprising:
(a) administering a drug providing 6-thioguanine to a subject having said immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder; and
(b) determining the level of 6-thioguanine in said subject having said immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder,
wherein the level of 6-thioguanine less than about 230 µmol per 8×108 red blood cells indicates a need to increase the amount of said drug subsequently administered to said subject, and
wherein the level of 6-thioguanine greater than about 400 µmol per 8×108 red blood cells indicates a need to decrease the amount of said drug subsequently administered to said subject.’

The decision then went on to analyse the claims. On page 11 it came to the conclusion:

‘… the claims inform a relevant audience about certain laws of nature; any additional steps consist of well understood, routine, conventional activity already engaged in by the scientific community; and those steps, when viewed as a whole, add nothing significant beyond the sum of their parts taken separately.’

Going back a step, SCOTUS was making a determination of whether or not the invention claimed was patent eligible – whether it fitted within the definition of an invention:

‘Any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.’

It did.

But then SCOTUS went on (from page 2) to consider if it was nevertheless excluded under any of the three judge-made exclusions to patent eligibility: ‘phenomena of nature, mental processes and abstract intellectual concepts.’ It focused on the first of these exclusions. The balancing act it said it was performing was to exclude patents for the ‘basic tools of scientific and technological work’ – while at the same time recognising ‘that too broad an interpretation of this exclusionary principle could eviscerate patent law. For all inventions at some level embody, use, reflect, rest upon, or apply laws of nature, natural phenomena, or abstract ideas.’

The premise (Page 8) on which SCOTUS came to the conclusion that the patents were invalid was:

‘Prometheus’ patents set forth laws of nature–namely, relationships between concentrations of certain metabolites in the blood and the likelihood that a dosage of a thiopurine drug will prove ineffective or cause harm.’

This is a breathtaking extrapolation. Go back up and read Dr. Théoret’s first paragraph. There is a huge variability between people, based on their genetic make up, causing different rates of metabolising the thiopurines they are taking. The relationships are hardly ‘laws of nature’ within the meaning given in earlier SCOTUS decisions referred to in this one. Determining that a particular range of metabolites in the blood for a particular disorder is the goldilocks range is hardly going to pre-empt a ‘basic tool of scientific and technological work’.

What is a law of nature? One example is that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light (except maybe neutrinos between Geneva and northern Italy!). I think a definition most scientists could agree on is that it is an hypothesis that has not been disproved by so much experimentation that it is generally agreed to be correct. But remember the scientist’s lament, ‘a beautiful hypothesis – ruined by an ugly fact.’

SCOTUS justices generally deal with matters concerning the interpretation of the constitution. And a training in and understanding of science is not a prerequisite to being appointed. But a lack of understanding of science, or a wilful overlooking of what a law of nature is to a scientist, has led to this decision. And there is no appeal from here.

And who is the winner? The Mayo Clinic:

Although it is a non-profit organisation, it brings in handsome sums of money and any premium it might have had to pay for the Prometheus diagnostic kits will hardly make what it charges its patients any cheaper.

And the losers?

Prometheus Laboratories will now lose its exclusivity in marketing the diagnostic kits used to carry out the patented method. The patents were due to expire in seven years time, so its investment in commercialising the invention will have to be recouped in competition with suppliers who have contributed nothing to getting the science from the lab to the market place.

But the real losers are Ste-Justine’s hospital (the French language children’s hospital in Montreal — my home town) and the taxpayers of Quebec who fund the public health system that Ste-Justine’s is a part of. They will lose the royalty income stream the patents were generating.

And where does this leave the Myriad Genetics gene patents appeal pending before SCOTUS?

One commentator has speculated that SCOTUS will refer that case back to the appeal court that held the ‘gene’ claims to be valid. But in 2011 SCOTUS referred Mayo v Prometheus back to them — and the CAFC did not change its mind.

Watch this space.

~ Doug Calhoun
IP Mentor


Farming’s unfashionable, but there’s a simple fix to make it sexy Peter Kerr Mar 22

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There are huge gains to be made in pastoral farming productivity if the average performers started doing what the top 25% do according to MAF in its Briefing to Incoming Ministers.

That would increase exports by $3 billion a year, just using existing knowledge.

Now, as MAF sees it, we’re missing considerable opportunities. The report says ‘The problem arises from a complex mix of capabilities, infrastructure, investment, incentives and social factors across a broad range of industry participants.’

If this is shorthand for the fact that average age of sheep and beef farmers is now 58 and rising (see here), and, those very same farmers have continually pushed up the price of land beyond its actual productive value, then MAF’s dead right. Indeed, there’s a demographic time bomb — and as the ANZ bank says in the above article, we’ve lost a generation.

One thing that the MAF BIM doesn’t mention, and to be fair it is probably a bridge too far for a bureaucrat, is that farming ain’t sexy.

This is in spite of the fact that the range of skills — biological, financial, management, (increasingly) IT — that need to be cleverly combined to turn a profit from the land, this and agriculture’s wider story doesn’t resonate with the general public nor with young people.

There is one simple reason.

Farming, the way we do it, doesn’t have a name.

That is, we take sunshine, soil and fresh air and make wonderful protein products. We work in harmony with nature, using all the skills mentioned above, and generally, sustainably, make fantastic raw materials that become desirable food and fibre.

While those in the agriculture industry may be aware of this wider ecosystem approach, others, including overseas consumers, haven’t a clue.

And, as design guru Dorenda Britten says, ‘you can’t buy into something until you name it.’

New Zealand agriculture’s key comparative advantage is its understanding and utilisation of pastoral production systems. This fantastic transformation of solar energy, the utter underpinning of our economy, is formless and vague.

To the vast majority of Kiwi’s, though agriculture’s stolid, it’s about as sexy as dirt.

But when you realise that once overseas consumers are aware of how NZ produces the majority of its milk, meat and fibre, they are immediately converts to what is effectively ‘the way you’d farm if you farmed yourself.’

New Zealand Inc needs to wake up to the fact that our farming is much more that a way to produce food. Standing back and looking at big picture, we’re a conceptual ideal.

However, until we name (which is the same as branding) our system, the issues identified by MAF won’t have a hope in hell of being resolved.

Until we own our story (and a brand is merely shorthand for the story) there will be nothing for young people to buy into — or to even consider the possibility of being able to have a fulfilling life by making money by using land wisely.

Now, this may be an innovative leap that a production-oriented mindset finds difficult to conceive.

Nevertheless, to be part and parcel of a modern consumer and young person’s mind we need to reconceive our agriculture as being as much of an ‘experience’ rather than as an item that somehow ends up on your plate.

As soon as we name/brand what we do, we provide ourselves with an entirely different future.


Healthy challenge in 100 words Peter Kerr Mar 21

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Hat’s off to Grow Wellington for keeping it simple and sweet, and setting the initial bar low in its ‘Innovating for Health Challenge’.

Anyone with an idea, good, bad or indifferent, only has to submit up to 100 words for a proposition with commercial potential in a healthcare application.

And, when you think about it, if you can’t spark a ‘tell me more’ response in four or five sentences, you might as well head back to the drawing board.

Entries close on March 30, and while the hundred or so already in are mostly from researchers and clinicians across universities, research institutes and district health boards, the competition’s open to anyone across the country.

GW’s sweetens the pot for entrants with free IP management advice, connections with and to entrepreneurs and investors and help in working up a business plan for some of those ideas deemed good enough.

Oh, and the winner gains $50,000 development funding.

Part of the scheme’s virtue (from sticK’s point of view) is that academics sometimes deem ‘business’ as being something they’re not interested in — yet these are the very people that will have the health ideas.

Simply, getting their ideas on the table is an excellent start though, and every submission will receive feedback.

Not many people realise that the Wellington’s region has almost 2000 researchers; with many being health professionals in CRIs, universities, medical school offshoots and clinical trial facilities.

The opportunity to leverage that expertise against promising ideas is one that the region should take. Allowing academics and others from around the country to quickly and easily submit an idea (compared to spending days filling in a funding application) is quite appealing.

Hand-holding at stage two, the feasibility study part, makes sense.

So, a final reminder…..just a hundred words for a good healthy idea.


Science & tech docos find a natural home Peter Kerr Mar 20

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documentary-log.com asked nicely, and it’s a free service with no registration — so here’s a plug for a website with over 700 docos to download and view.

The Canadian-based venture’s heavy on the science and technology end of docos, which is why presumably a Lydia Bloomfield got hold of me to see if sticK would like to give them a mention.

Think anthropology, biology/environment, cosmology/physics, psychology as well as what’s labelled science & technology, and you’ll get a feel for what’s available.

But there’s also politics, conspiracy/ mystery and biography (among many) to round out the softer end of the spectrum.

As you do, I put ‘new zealand’ in the search bar, and it came up with two: ‘The making of Captain Cook’ (see here) and ‘A cow at my table’ (see here).

There’s a star rating system too so that viewers can comment favourably….or otherwise.

Bloomfield says the site’s free because of ad-sponsorship, with Google’s adsense delivering a sidebar of topics/sites it reckons you might be interested in.

Many of the documentaries appear to be about an hour long, and the site suggests downloading them to a computer first, before then viewing at your leisure.

sticK didn’t know about the site till Bloomfield suggested a plug — and you’d have to suspect that YouTube wouldn’t come up with the same density of high quality material as this specialist provider.

It’s nice to know someone’s taking the trouble to assemble these docos……the least sticK can do is point out its presence.


The Patents Bill: Please leave it alone until the super ministry is sorted Peter Kerr Mar 16

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Guest blog by Doug Calhoun

The new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which will combine Economic Development, Science and Innovation, Labour, and Building and Housing, attracted the usual headlines about job losses and efficiency dividends: (see here).

But beyond the headlines there has been some reasoned analysis of what current structures and accountability procedures have and haven’t achieved. The ‘Better Public Services Report’: (released at the same time as the announcement of the super ministry) has added a new word to government speak — RESULTS. In a sardonic footnote on page 23 the report notes:

‘The technically-minded reader will note this report uses the term ‘results’ rather than the PFA term ‘outcomes’. We have gone with the more open term as results can encompass outcomes, intermediate outcomes and outputs where necessary.’

The report notes, on several occasions, a common problem from the current set up:

Page 20 — ‘The most challenging social and economic issues facing New Zealand need action across agency boundaries, and currently this action takes too long. Having many agencies and a culture of high levels of consensus-seeking consultation between agencies slows progress down.’

Page 23 — ‘Alongside containing and reducing costs, the greatest challenge facing the state services is to gain more traction on achieving results: the complex and long term issues that cross agency boundaries. This is hard territory as it requires cooperative action from Ministers, boards and agency leaders and staff, action that sometimes competes with those Ministers’ and agencies’ narrower objectives.’

Page 26 — ‘The Advisory Group’s assessment, supported by discussions with chief executives and Ministers, is that one of the main obstacles to the state services responding more effectively to cross-agency results is the inflexibility in current organisational arrangements. It tends to be too hard to divert staff from existing work plans. Multi-agency work is on occasion characterised by individual agencies protecting their own patch rather than focusing on solving the common problem.’

Page 27 — ‘Overall, and on balance, the Advisory Group considers that New Zealand is not well served by the high number of departments in the state services, particularly where there is a lot of overlap and duplication between separate agencies’ briefs.’

Page 28 — ‘One of the reasons the system has struggled to make traction on inter-agency results is the quality and alignment of policy advice.’

[And a footnote references the December 2010 Scott Report]:

Which can all be summed up by saying that all too often the left hand of government does not know (or care) what the right hand is doing.

The solution announced on Super Thursday is to put both hands under the control of one management with the objective that they work together to achieve an overall result consistent with the government’s objectives. And Stephen Joyce has been given the task of doing this.

The Patents Bill v Innovation Policy

As I endeavoured to point out in my first guest post: the Patents Bill was drafted with the aim of minimising the leakage of patent ‘benefits’ to overseas owners. The result intended under the new regime is that patents are to be as difficult to obtain as possible, they are to be vulnerable to validity attacks by anyone, and they make many high value manufacturing sector (HVMSS) technologies ineligible for patent protection.

At the same time the innovation policy endorsed by the government during the last election campaign advocated ramping up HVMSS technology transfer from universities and CRIs through enhanced intellectual property deal flow.

The patent policy came from MED; the innovation policy came from MSI.

Now – have a look back at each of the quotes from the Better Public Services Report. ‘This is hard territory as it requires cooperative action from Ministers, boards and agency leaders and staff, action that sometimes competes with those Ministers’ and agencies’ narrower objectives’ – is my favourite.

The result that both Mr key and Mr Shearer said they wanted to achieve in their ‘Super Thursday’ speeches was a more prosperous New Zealand. The result that the Patents Bill aims to achieve is a chill on New Zealand patents. The result that MSI is seeking is to convert good science ideas into innovation — and one of the tools they recommend for doing so is technology transfer. And patents are the currency of technology transfer.

The Patents Act 1953 was virtually a carbon copy of the 1949 British Patent Act. The British Act was replaced in 1977 by a substantially different one based on the European Patent Convention. In the early 1980s the government appointed a committee (IPAC) that looked at some aspects of patent law on an ad hoc basis. In 1989 the Law Commission had a brief look at patent law, but gave it over when the Ministry of Commerce took on the task. In 1992 MOC produced a set of ‘proposed recommendations’ that almost led to a rewrite of the patent law. But in 1994, in anticipation of the formation of the WTO with its minimum IP standards, the Patents Act was tweaked. The 1994 changes resulted in the Wai 262 claimants protesting that all IP law reform should halt until their treaty claim was settled. It did. The Wai 262 report was finally released in mid-2011.

If you are still with me, in 2000 a new round of patent law reform began, and it set off in a very different policy direction from the 1992 recommendations. The resulting Patents Bill has been through a select committee and returned to Parliament where it has sat in limbo for two years so far. (My take is that the delay is partly because the government is awaiting the outcome of the TPP negotiations — and American demands — and partly until the government responds to the Wai 262 Report recommendations.)

So my plea to Mr Joyce is this. Review of our patent law has been going on for 30 years. So another delay will not be of much consequence. Your government has to define the results that it wants to achieve. Does it want a Patents Act that puts a chill on anyone getting patents (to stop leaks of benefits to foreigners); or does it want a Patents Act that achieves a result of quality patents serving as a reliable currency for technology transfer? Don’t pass the Patents Bill until you define the result you want. And then make sure the bill achieves that result.

~ Doug Calhoun
IP Mentor
Serial Stirrer


Mass customisation really does mean it is all about you Peter Kerr Mar 15

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It’s difficult to predict where the confluence of trends like 3-D printing, mass customisation and the social web will end up.

But, just as the publishing and music industries got democratised (or destroyed, depending on your point of view) by cheap and easy access to digital tools and information, so too will the way we make things; for ourselves and often by ourselves.

For transplanted Belgian, and now Waitarere Beach (north west of Levin) resident Tom Kluyskens, one of the parts of the puzzle is in finding compelling ways to narrow the divide between designers, manufacturers and end users of products.

Kluyskens is a designer and computer graphics software engineer, and having originally trained as a civil engineer spent over 10 years working in the film industry.

His observation is that while tools such as laser cutters, CNC routers and 3D printers is getting ever cheaper and access to these tools is becoming easier, designing for such machines still requires a fair degree of Computer Aided Design (CAD) knowledge.

Services like Shapeways and Ponoko, a Wellington-originated trailblazer in the ‘personal factory movement’, have drastically lowered the threshold for creators and DIYers to manufacture and sell their designs, by providing standards and a portal to manufacturing capacity and material suppliers, along with an online marketplace.

These services still count on people who are knowledgeable about design software, to upload designs. And on the other hand, buyers still have limited control over what they buy.

‘So there’s a need for software that allows designers to infuse their designs with a measured amount of flexibility,’ says Kluyskens. ‘There also needs to be a way to provide intuitive and easy control over that flexibility to end users, so they can personalise and customise what they’re about to buy.’

A few years back, Kluyskens founded Made on Jupiter, a collective of seasoned graphics engineers and industrial designers interested in exploring new ways of making things, in what they call a ‘post-digital’ world: a world where ‘atoms are the new bits.’ MoJ works at the confluence of digital manufacturing techniques and entertainment graphics software.

MoJ’s efforts caught the attention of a windsurfboard manufacturer.

‘With them, we are exploring the idea of mass customisation,’ Kluyskens says. ‘Windsurfboard manufacturing is a particularly good test case.’

Currently people can buy a board that’s mass-produced in South-East Asia, or alternatively, a surfer can approach a ‘shaper’, a person who makes customised boards.

Where MoJ is targeting its software is in the middle ground. An intuitive and interactive online interface formalises the conversation between designer and buyer, windsurfer and shaper, guiding the creation of a custom board which is adapted to the user’s skills, biometrics and personal tastes such as colour and graphics.

‘There’s infinitely more variation possible than with mass-produced boards, yet the parameters and production process as so well defined, that boards can still be made very efficiently,’ he says.

Kluyskens says his multidimensional background, particularly the creation of digital effects for the film industry is of great advantage in design interface software.

He’s designed complex movie effects such as digital water and lava for The Lord of the Rings, a chocolate river for Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, digital surf waves for Surf’s Up, and the spaghetti twister for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Digital effects creation requires an artist and engineer to work closely together.

‘It is the effects engineer’s task to simplify a complex system — often involving a good chunk of maths and physics — to a simple interface that an animator can intuitively work with,’ he says.

So it is with mass customisation.

‘What the whole mass customisation movement needs are better interfaces, a better user experience, a more intuitive way to use complex machines,’ says Kluyskens.

And hence, MoJ.

The start-up is creating its own multipurpose software, and is looking for people who want to provide their customers with an engaging, personal interaction with their own product line(s).

MoJ is also looking for the right kind of investors interested in modern ways of manufacturing and intuitive graphics software solutions.

As well as having plans for a first round of investment towards the end of this year, Kluyskens says MoJ is always open to chat with local developers, designers and businesses who have a keen interest in the matter.

‘We’re looking to help in democratising the manufacturing process,’ Kluyskens says.

‘It’s about reinstating the respect for the things we buy, buy giving us a role in their creation process. It’s about giving things a story, as well as better function.’


Give us something simple Steven, and also create an S&I council Peter Kerr Mar 13

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As one who cut his business teeth in commercial radio, super-minister Steven Joyce will know better than most about the importance of appealing to peoples’ hearts and minds.

Now, Mr Joyce may be formulating a super science and innovation plan as we speak — however, there’s a suspicion he’s stuck in the middle at the moment.

But the middle’s no place to inspire the masses or ignite the innovation and income generating potential that (hopefully) is lurking in us.

So, for what its worth then Mr Joyce, sticK’s two cents worth.

Whatever you reckon we’re going to do, be able to state it in a sentence.

That is, ‘we’re going to concentrate on this, this and this, back it up with that, and help drive promising Kiwi ideas to global scale’.

One sentence, otherwise you lose all of us.

One sentence, and you can build all the other developments required from a logical place, a consistent reference point.

Second, the Powering Innovation review on how to crank up high value manufacturing came up with a number of well-thought out recommendations (many of them more generic and beyond the HVM brief).

Undoubtedly you’re chewing your way through how to, practically, bring some of these into being.

Getting the many ducks in the mix to fly in formation will be quite a challenge.

They range from ‘encouraging’ universities to deliver more of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) graduates that the country needs more than hairdressers, through to allowing IRL to transform itself into an Advanced Technology Institute.

(On that note though, if rumours that a stocktake of IRL’s capabilities includes minutiae detail such as its lease arrangements are true, the big picture’s certainly being missed here).

Powering Innovation made recommendation #13 one of the long term strategic priorities.

    Recommendation 13
    Form a Science and Innovation Council, led from a very senior ministerial level in Government, with representatives from the university, public and private research organisations and from industry. Members should represent a wide range of science and technology themes, including the social sciences. The role of the Science and Innovation Council should be to establish a national innovation strategy and advise on science and innovation policy and priorities.

However, if we’re thinking hearts and minds Minister, do this now, do it first.

There would be no greater indication that we’re serious about creating prosperity than having such a council.

It is exactly what the exemplar countries such as Denmark, Finland and Singapore hove done.

And the moment you did if for New Zealand is the instant you’d indicate to the country that you’re serious about driving growth by using our brains.

Given that perception is reality, the formation of such a S&I council would be the best way to get the ducks flying in formation.

It would also get you out of that middle muddle.

Currently there’s a feeling that we’re trying to build a train (engines and carriages), but haven’t laid the track. That’s the wrong way round.

But the two simple ideas suggested fix that.

Sort out a single sentence Steven that simply states what we’re going to do.

Create a science and innovation council.

Then, you’ll gather our hearts and minds and provide the most powerful indication possible that we’re on an exciting journey – together.


Kiwi conference to get to the core of computing opportunity Peter Kerr Mar 08

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Lurking below the IT headline generating buzz of Apps and social media and smart phones is a core change racing in parallel with its sometimes perceived more glamorous cousins.

The very way computers and computing itself, works, has changed. The change is, literally, multicore.

Until quite recently, most computer devices have been a single core. Over the past 50 years there’s been huge improvements in these processor’s performance and scalability. Software for such single processors has been written sequentially – that is, one step after another. But packing ever more into smaller and smaller bundles results in ever more heat generation — and with it the need to keep computers cool.

There’s also only so much calculating that’s able to be carried out when you’re essentially trying to funnel the results through one core.

However, ‘serial computing is dead, and the parallel computing revolution has begun based on a multicore architecture,’ says Nicolas Erdody. ‘This offers virtually unlimited processing power without the heat and size constraints of its single core ancestor,’ says the Oamaru-based technology and business adviser (Erdody Consulting).

Multicores (more than one processor) became mainstream in early 2006, and brought with it a fundamental shift by the software development community. Erdody says early adopters of what he calls ‘Parallelism’ discovered heavy costs associated with attempting to retrofit existing single core languages and approaches to multicores. Parallelism allows problems to be divided into parts that are solved simultaneously (see a wikipedia explanation here)

‘The move to parallel computing is too important to get wrong,’ he says. ‘It needs to be done right the first time, or you will be doomed to do it over and over again.’

At the same time, doing nothing is not an option. Erdody says ageing legacy systems will need to be adapted to the new parallelism paradigm.

‘The leap in power is enabling the development of revolutionary software in all areas and industries,’ he says. ‘Applications that were unthinkable only a few years ago are becoming a reality, and it is a topic that affects every computer programmer on the planet.’

For those able and willing to embrace the changes that are required, combined with developments in big data, the cloud and the Internet, the potential rewards are massive he says.

It is part of the reason that Erdody is one of the organisers behind Multicore World 2012, one of the first forums in the world bringing together multiple stakeholders to address parallel programming, its implications and applications. It is being held in Wellington’s Town Hall on March 27 & 28, with more information and registration available here.

‘Anybody who is a programmer or interested in the wider fields of where computing is heading, should attend,’ he says. ‘Multicore World is a conference for IT decision takers, being software leaders as well as senior managers looking to dramatically improve their organisations’ performances. It should particularly be of interest for innovators in all areas, being economy, science or medicine’

Among the speakers and invitees are Intel’s director of software, and its senior research scientist for OpenCL. The CSIRO’s senior software scientist who is the project leader for the Square Kilometer Array is another speaker, as are Weta Digital CTO and GreenButton’s CEO.

USA and New Zealand investors, and senior executives and technical leaders from both countries will be in attendance in what Erdody describes as a unique opportunity to discuss the convergence of business and technology.

‘We, New Zealand, has an opportunity to build a centre of excellence in multicore software and parallel computing from this country,’ he says. ‘The infrastructure is in place to allow us to do it – what it requires is a vision to develop along these lines.’

McW 2012 will trigger a discussion about the present and future of the IT industry he says. Changes will occur whether or not people are aware of it, and ‘given that every company is becoming a software company, you need to know what is happening right now and how it will affect you and your company,’ Erdody says.

A comparison could be a change in a car’s performance from having a single engine, to power plant situated at every wheel. Under such a scenario, the car’s exterior, its look, may remain the same.

It’s performance, and what it is capable of, totally change however.

Likewise, the engines of how our increasingly ubiquitous computing devices operate is the non-glamourous side of things.

But, understanding the mechanics drives the development of what is possible, where things can go.

Out of sight, but not necessarily out of mind, McW 2012 promises to be one of those seminal events, where New Zealand has the potential to be at the front rather than at the rear of the pack.


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