Thursday, June 29, 2017

For a More Productive Workforce, Scientific Know-How Helps - WSJ

For a More Productive Workforce, Scientific Know-How Helps - WSJ:

So a plant run without scientists and engineers will be 4.4% less productive. This might be for several reasons, but most likely because off efficiency. Scientists are always trying to figure out a better way to do stuff.

It is good to have empirical evidence to support the value of scientists outside of the labs. Engineers could help improve the entire production and supply chain.

Here is the working paper: NBER Working Paper№23484, “The Effects of Scientists and Engineers on Productivity and Earnings
at the Establishment Where They Work,” June 2017, by Erling Barth, James C. Davis, Richard
B. Freeman, and Andrew J. Wang.

There's several questions that would be interesting to know. All would require a much more careful read of the paper. Why would companies have plants that do not have scientists and engineers? These are outside of the labs where basic research is done.

Hall & Hinkelman (2013) argue that a cross section of the organization would be use starting early in the basic research stage and going all the way through to production. This Enabling Technology Unit (ETU) team would include engineers, scientists and marketing folks. Since they would be working together, it would not make much difference if the scientist/engineer was in the lab or in the factory/plant.

Maybe the ETU approach would offer even more efficiencies than those found by moving some scientists into the plant.


Hall, E. B. & Hinkelman, R. M. (2013). Perpetual Innovation™: A guide to strategic
planning, patent commercialization and enduring competitive advantage, Version
. Morrisville, NC: LuLu Press.
Retrieved from:

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Even with patents, the past can be prologue

      One might characterize the patent market of the past several years as a herd of elephants fighting over the last leaves on a tree.  This might be somewhat crude to many but a scan of the landscape of Fortune-100 corporations spending millions litigating accusations of infringement or suing for infringement makes a case.  Or, the flooding of the PTAB with requests for IPR (inter partes review procedure) to determine patent validity also makes a case.  Turmoil and conflict are the (dis) order of the day among the patent fortresses.  Unfortunately, the considerable ripple effect created reaches to the startup company attempting to file its first application.
     “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come”, said Victor Hugo roughly the same time as the sewing machine patent wars of the 1850s were raging.  The pre-Civil War sewing machine was a disruptive technology comparable today to smart phones, driverless cars and retail sales on the Internet.  There were numerous inventors of the machine and devices that improved it all with patents.  You know what happened- each machine sold infringed on a number of patents.  Elias Howe didn’t make sewing machines.  He licensed his patent on the lockstitch to sewing machine manufacturers.
     There were suits and countersuits by the score matching the complexity for their time as the suits of today.  They were heard by judges and juries largely unschooled in the technology.  Relative peace and calm came in 1856 when the patent owners created the first patent pool.  Fast forward to today, Article by TechCrunch.  Patent pools handle basic building block and Standards patents for a selected product. The reference here is to the data transmission protocols for transmitting high density digital audio content that makes up the Advances Audio Coding (AAC) patent pool administered by Via Licensing Corp of San Francisco.  Dolby, AT&T, Philips, Microsoft, NEC, Panasonic are among those participating.
     This is compensation (revenue) beats litigation (legal and court costs).  Net savings can be substantial.  The patent wars are different today – smart phones, batteries, DNA twiddling, drug targeting. History repeats itself… Sort of.