[LINK] Einstein's fridge an example for NICTA?

Steve Jenkin sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au
Tue Dec 12 12:18:10 AEDT 2006

On Mon, Dec 11, 2006 at 09:26:52AM +1100, Tom Worthington wrote:

> We should not be surprised if NICTA fails to produce any economic 
> benefit for Australia, if we fail to plan how to obtain such benefit. 

* NICTA is, I believe, on-track to produce its most important output,
  100 PhD's. We had a huge run-down in academic 'stock' up to the dot.bust
  [over 20 unfilled IT positions in Unis in Oz]. Not supplying the
  teaching/research pipeline is "eating your seed corn".
  Since the dot.bust, enrollments in IT undergrad. have declined by
  25%-30% pa *compounded*. This year is the first time there has been an
  upturn in prospects - we're going into undersupply and inflated wages
  again. Perhaps 2007 will see undergrad enrollments increase.

* The people I'm close to in NICTA are set to finish something that will
  be a world first - and *will* turn the world of O/S's on its head.
  They already get significant money from Qualcomm. The spin-off is
  likely to do exceeding well.

* And you are exactly right - Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail.

  I was once told that Western Digital, the produciton arm of Bell, kept
  a close eye on the researchers in Bell Labs. The story went that Ken
  Thompson, after he built "Belle" and became world computer chess
  champion, was approached to apply the work doing chip layout - which
  gave WD a significant advantage for a number of years.
  Bell deliberately tried to leverage its research output. It wasn't
  luck or hoping, but very deliberate.

  An ex-Xerox PARC friend bemoans the demise of *all* the great Labs in
  the US - PARC, Bell Labs, IBM Watson (others?). His point is they did
  research across the whole spectrum. How many Nobel prizes did Bell
  Labs turn out?? Things like the transistor (& laser?).  Shannon, of
  Shannon's Law, worked there.

  Google Labs are very good - as far as they go (software only?).

* Innovation is *not* what academics and Unis do well...
  [The moving from idea/prototype to production/marketing]
  Teaching and Research is their intent and strength.

  I'd say the Australian Problem is the lack of the critical mass of
  Talent+Entrepeneurs as found in Silicon Valley. Take Graham
  Hellestrand (UNSW) who's work led directly to both the heart pacemaker and
  the cochlea implant. He only got a business up (VaST) by moving to
  Silicon Valley. I believe he now sells optimisation & modelling
  software to Intel - his "little aussie product" is world best.

  Aussies are *unusually* inventive - witness the litany of inventions
  that boomed when sold overseas - and we "box far about our weight" on
  research measures [don't have references].

  We failed badly at moving ideas/inventions into innovations.

> One alternative model is the "Cambridge Phenomenon", which I saw on a 
> visit to the University of Cambridge (England).

* This model won't work in Australia. We are *very* different, we have
  to invent our own model. Witness the AIS and how good we are at
  cricket. Applying another culture and context to us is like trying to
  produce Great Masters by copying Rembrandt and Picaso.
  Truly great artists *do* start this way - but it's not a sufficient
  condition.  There are many fine art forgers who make beautiful copies,
  but they aren't "Masters". [A very Australian example I hope.]
  The problem is with businesses investing in and applying research.
  You can't fix that at the research end - only at the business/finance
  end. And Govt. policies and incentives alone won't do it either.

  The end of the 150% R&D rebate scheme, because it was used and abused
  by a bunch of business shonks, points out what won't work.
  I suspect it's because we have an endemic business culture that's very
  "risk-adverse" and complacent. "CYA" seems to be the guiding light.
  [Remember the Telstra Product Development Fund? Was meant to
   distribute just $5M/year. It did less than 1/3 that - and mostly to a
   few big projects by large, established companies.]
  Although Telstra had a well funded "Telstra Labs", it never seemed to
  produce much [correct me if I'm wrong]. Nothing on the scale of Bell

> ...the question I ask every PHD candidate <snip> @ ANU:
>    "How are we going to make money out of this?".

A good question, but asked of the wrong people... They can do nothing much.
 - Those who control the purse stings could be doing what Bell Labs did,
   dedicate real resources to examining research outputs and sponsor the
   *development* part of R&D. It's a different skill set, different
   contacts and worldview.

 - The world is littered with examples of failed companies where the
   principals were brilliant researchers/scientists and did not have the
   insight to realise they weren't also good at business. Witness An
   Wang and Wang Laboratories. Well run, it would still be a major force
   in computing. Graham Hellestrand is an extremely unusual person in
   operating in both worlds (science and business). But I bet he's got
   help when needed...

   The Gallup Organisation produced research based on a few million
   interviews - their conclusions are to focus on what you do well, and
   get others to do the rest.

 - Really successful entrepeneurs have, by popular wisdom, "gone bust
   three times before succeeding". Whether or not it's true, becoming
   good at business requires substansial *experiential* learning, not
   just study. Otherwise all those MBA's would each be massively

 - The lessons of business have to be learnt again at every scale.
   Microsoft did not just appear as a $50Bn company - it, and it's
   managers+culture, grew over time. Making the inevitable mistakes
   along the way. Succesful companies learn and adapt from mistakes.

 - Good businesses are *teams*. No one person can perform all functions
   well. If you're good at Marketing, will you be good at
   Accounting/Financial management as well?? [Most unlikely]

   Encouraging freshly minted PhD to think outside their limited, narrow world
   is an exceedingly good idea. Expecting the majority of them to grow
   into anything other than pure researchers is unrealistic.

 - Look at Ernesto Sirolli's work on "Enterprise Facilitation" -
   creating new businesses out of nothing, especially in hardship
   He has real figures too... Esperance, in the last 20 years, from
   a population of ~15,000, has created 800 new businesses, with some
   huge concominant boost to the local economy.
   It wasn't chance, it was focussed and intentional.
   The secret is getting people to do what they do well, and finding
   others to fill in the gaps.
   Ernesto did *not* bring money, fancy tools and training or an IQ over 200.
   He listened, he helped, he pleaded their cases, he asked them good
   questions and found them good partners and advisors. He
   "facilitated". He wasn't an experienced, or even good, business man.
   His work led directly to the establishment of 120 BEC's around
   Australia. They have been hugely successful in rural/regional areas.
   His model has worked around the world as well.
   [It would take an Italian to figure us out!]

The Golden Question asked by Venture Capitalists is:
  What have you and your team done before? What's your track record?

Good business people are grown. Sirolli has shown that the process can
be much improved, simply, via "facilitation".

> ps: Perhaps we can draw inspiration from Albert Einstein. While doing 
> fundamental research he patented a refrigerator, which was licensed 
> to European appliance makers, who paid royalties: 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstein_refrigerator>.

A great factoid!
Who did the marketing and sales?

> Tom Worthington FACS HLM tom.worthington at tomw.net.au Ph: 0419 496150
> Director, Tomw Communications Pty Ltd            ABN: 17 088 714 309
> PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617                http://www.tomw.net.au/
> Visiting Fellow, ANU      Blog: http://www.tomw.net.au/blog/atom.xml  
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Steve Jenkin, Info Tech, Systems and Design Specialist.
0412 786 915 (+61 412 786 915)
PO Box 48, Kippax ACT 2615, AUSTRALIA

sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au http://www.canb.auug.org.au/~sjenkin

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