Thursday, November 8, 2012

2012 Western Australia Innovator of the Year

This (almost) annual program is meant to recognize the best innovation of the year, but how do you define "best?"
Innovator of the Year 2012 IOTY 2012 Western Australia
I'll tell you.  The "best" innovation is the one that has the greatest impact for the most people over the longest period of time into the future.

Got it?  Large Impact + Many people +  Long into the future.

Regrettably, I have to be the one to take the WA State Government to task, in particular the Department of Commerce, and in even more particular the IOTY2012 organising committee for failing to understand this simple, basic, clear meaning of "best."  I do this with their best interests at heart, and many of them are friends that I have known for years. So I feel I can be completely frank and honest about this:  The judges simply got it wrong this year, in my opinion.  But I'll let you be the judge of that.

In the emerging technology category (pre-revenue products), the finalists were:

Jonotoc - an all-natural and highly effective insecticide derived from (and I am NOT making this up) cockatoos' feathers.
Impact: potentially large.
Target: mainly the livestock industry in Australia.
Future:  until bugs evolve immunity, like every other insecticide, or until something better comes along.

I rate it about a 6 out of 10.

Floating droplet oil spill dispersant - a better remedy to marine oil spills.
Impact:  can significantly reduce the environmental impact of oil spills.
Target: basically, just oil spills.  Limited.
Future:  probably will become the standard for the next 2 to 3 decades.

I rate this about a 7 out of 10.

HiVAP alternative domestic evaporative cooling.  Uses water mist and a fantastically complex space-age-looking turbine wheel to cool the air slightly.
Impact: marginal power usage reduction in the evaporative cooling sector
Target: very questionable prospects for widespread uptake, either locally or internationally. As with all evap cooling, only works in LOW HUMIDITY environments.
Future:  not likely to be around in 5 years.

I rate this one a 1 out of 10.

StomaLife - quantum leap in ostomy devices, eliminating (har!) colostomy bags, skin infections, vastly improving quality of life for colostomy patients.
Impact: Significant improvement in lifestyle for colostomy survivors
Target: Millions of colostomy survivors worldwide and their carers
Future:  Immediate impact and destined to be the Standard device for the next 30 or 40 years.

I rate this one 9 out of 10.

Gene treatment for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  Makes a small number of sick people slightly less sick.
Impact: better than doing nothing, I guess.
Target: the relatively small number of humans with the DMD genetic disease.
Future: will hopefully eventually be superseded by something more like a cure.

I rate this a 3 out of 10.


In the Growth category (post-revenue), the finalists were:

Wear Liner attachment systems - a mechanical widget for attaching material handling wear plates to equipment.  This is an obvious and necessary incremental improvement.
Impact: Definite cost reduction and profitability boost to certain resources industries.
Target: Certain WA mining operations.  Limited.
Future: Destined to be standard for next generation or so.

I rate this a 6 out of 10 and endorse its immediate implementation.

REMSAFE remote electrical isolation systems.  Another necessary incremental improvement, saving time and money, and improving safety in certain industrial operations.
Impact: Definite cost reductions and productivity improvements in certain heavy industries.
Target: certain heavy industries, doesn't apply to everyone.
Future: will be standard for the next generation or so.

I rate this a 6 out of 10 and endorse its immediate implementation.

Kanopy online educational video distributor.  This is a very crowded field.
Impact: More copyrighted (not free) educational videos can be seen by students.
Target: some schools, universities that haven't heard of Youtube yet.
Future: Will soon be obsolete as the information distribution industry continues to rapidly evolve before our very eyes.  Business model is questionable, as there is no real money to be made out of education.

I rate this a 2 out of 10.  Weak and unnecessary "me too" effort.

L-3 Wireless Underwater wireless com - a 10-fold increase in range of undersea communications, recently successfully used by the Challenger Deep expedition.
Impact: Total game-changer in undersea communications technology.
Target: Every industry involved in building, servicing, operating marine equipment; scientific exploration, security, salvage, rescue, the list goes on.
Future:  The standard from now on and destined to influence the entire field for the next 50 years at least.

I rate this a 10 out of 10.

Now, what did the judges think?  In my opinion, they got it ALL WRONG.  Completely backwards.  The winner of the Emerging category was the worst one with the least potential impact, potential longevity,and smallest target:  the HiVAP evaporative cooler contraption, which I rated 1/10.   The real winner should obviously have been the StomaLife ostomy device, which I rated 9/10.

In the Growth category, the "winner" was Kanopy, the educational video thing which I rated 2/10.  The clearly superior innovation was the L-3 undersea communications system, to which I gave a perfect 10/10 score.

The "overall winner" was the gene therapy thing, which I rated as 3/10.

What do we learn from this?  The judges were obviously using a completely different definition of the word "best."  In every case, they gave the top gong to the worst finalist of each category!

Lest you call "sour grapes" on me and in the interest of full disclosure, I should state that I was involved with one of the applicants (not a finalist), which eventually took one of the "encouragement" awards.  (I'm actually a consultant to the inventors and a shareholder).   I was not expecting or requiring a win of any kind, and was quite surprised though pleased at the recognition we received.

I am emphatically NOT saying, "should have been us," but I am saying it should have been ANY of the other finalists other than the ones that actually won.

If you ever need to evaluate an invention, new product or innovation, follow this simple formula:

Big impact. Large audience.  Lasting effects.

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