The Prerequisites for Innovation
Shirley Ann Jackson: Well, you know, I often speak about \r\nan innovation ecosystem and I say that there are four key things that \r\nsuch an ecosystem has to possess:
The first is strategic focus \r\nand that strategic focus can be a national strategic focus, which is one\r\n I like to talk about a lot. It can be within the context of a given \r\nenterprise. The strategic focus—thinking about, you know, what the big \r\nissues are; what the big challenges are; where the big trends are; where\r\n is the world going?; what are the great things we need to think \r\nabout—is always important because it helps to sort of size the problem \r\nas it were, or spur the dream. But then we get nowhere if we don’t have\r\n discovery, if we don’t have transformative ideas and that is where \r\nbasic research and freeing people to think about things in a very \r\ncreative way leads to, you know, "aha" moments that we don’t \r\nanticipate. That’s what makes them aha moments. So we have to have and\r\n appreciate the power of transformative ideas and set the conditions for\r\n that to happen. But ideas are not enough. Everybody has an idea. The\r\n real issue is if one has something that is really important, it is \r\npotentially transformative, how does one get it into the marketplace? \r\nHow does one get it into practice? And that is difficult. It requires \r\ntranslational pathways that, ironically in some of the newer arenas, are\r\n not so easy. It’s not just as simple as pure venture capital. And a lot\r\n of the venture capital and early investors want to have more proof of \r\nconcept and then proof of scale and so there is a kind of a patient \r\ncapital that needs to exist that perhaps in the right circumstances, if \r\nit really involves some breakthrough technology that may be broadly \r\ntransformative as opposed to the province of one enterprise, maybe the \r\ngovernment has to support some of that. And then the final key element \r\nis capital; but when people think of capital, they tend to think of \r\nfinancial capital and it is one key element of capital, financial \r\ncapital, patient capital. But then there’s also what I refer to as \r\ninfrastructural capital and then, of course, there’s human capital.
Infrastructural\r\n capital relates to the fact that if one is in some new area, like \r\nnanotechnology again, some areas of biotechnology really break through \r\narenas. They may need to be shared infrastructure for test beds for \r\nscale up demonstrations for prototyping. It may need computational \r\ncapabilities for modeling and simulation that a start up firm cannot \r\nafford and so they have to be mechanisms to provide that kind of \r\ncapital, that kind of infrastructure for those enterprises. And then \r\nhuman capital, we’ve already been discussing in discussing the quiet \r\ncrisis, because if we don’t have the people, there are no transformative\r\n ideas. If we don’t have the people, there’s no one to either create or\r\n move along translational pathways and if we don’t have the people, then\r\n the other capital doesn’t matter, because there won’t be anything to \r\ninvest it in anyway.
Recorded on May 12, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman
The RPI president thinks four elements need to be in place to foster scientific innovation: strategic focus, transformative ideas, translational pathways, and capital.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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