Overcoming the Valley of Death

Welcome to the new Open Photonics blog. In this blog we will cover a bunch of different subjects. We will use this as a tool to facilitate discussion, bring out new ideas, and report on some of the latest developments within the Optics and Photonics development community.

Let me start my first blog with a quick introduction on why I started Open Photonics.

I started Open Photonics because I saw the need to change the paradigm on how photonics technology is brought out of the research lab and into commercialization.

As we say on our homepage: “We accelerate the commercialization of photonics technologies by facilitating unprecedented collaboration between established companies with channels to market with researchers/inventors having new ideas that they want to see commercialized.”

I’ve seen a lot of really cool ideas go nowhere because researchers didn’t have an understanding of what it took to get their idea commercialized. Not because the technology didn’t work, but rather because they didn’t understand the markets or the true value of what they had invented. There’s a difference between invention and innovation. This will be a subject of the future blog post.

Likewise I watched large companies fall into the trap of incrementalism, launching derivative product,after derivative product, because that was the safer thing to do.

These larger companies all say that they want to do the bigger, bolder projects. But it’s almost impossible to do so in today’s economic environment. The risk of failure is just too high. It’s safer to hit single after single after single, than it is to swing for the fences and fail.

No one ever gets fired for making the safe decision!

These two communities (companies and inventors) need each other!

The researchers and inventors have great ideas. They have access to the latest equipment, they have access to an infrastructure that is amazing. They are swinging for the fences. And even better, some government agency probably paid millions of dollar, euros, pounds, yen or RMB to put that infrastructure together. They can prove out the idea concept and then make a prototype for a fraction of the cost that a company could do it if they have to start from scratch.

Despite being filled with really smart people, most companies really struggle with the early-stage technology. The days of being able to do early-stage development inside companies are almost gone unless you are a GE or Philips. Which is interesting actually considering those two companies are some of the biggest open innovation practitioners in the world.

Every time I go to a conference, read journal articles or visit researchers in their labs, I am blown away with the opportunities for Photonics technologies. And yet the common thread I see is how little these researchers understand what it takes to turn their great idea into a product. Now this is not a 100% generalization. Some do. We want to work with both types.

Going forward when I discuss our industry, I’m referring to the Photonics industry. Which actually is a bit of a misnomer because I really don’t think there’s a Photonics industry. We are an enabling technology. The potential and opportunities for photonics technologies enabling new products, new applications, new spaces is unbelievable. Photonics technology is used everywhere. It is ubiquitous in our life, and yet no one really notices it. They don’t notice it because there’s really no photonics industry. But I digress as this most likely will be a topic of yet another future blog post.

On this blog you will watch us try and overcome the valley of death. The great news is we’re not doing this alone. We have incredible support from SPIE and PennWell publishing. Without their support, this would be a much much larger climb.

I hope you enjoy the journey as much as we are.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.