At the 2019 Innovation Research Interchange (IRI) Annual Conference in Pittsburgh last week, International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory Associate Program Scientist Dr. Kenneth Savin spoke about the ways in which technology for the ISS has developed, discussing how opportunities to collaborate with teams from different industries can lead to new understanding and breakthrough innovation. The IRI Annual Conference brings together global innovation leaders from a wide variety of industries—from small startups to large corporations—to exchange ideas on managing innovation and thriving in an environment that is constantly changing.
The 2019 IRI Annual Conference was focused on digital transformation and the potential for innovation that exists at the interface between the digital and the physical. Many recent technological breakthroughs have resulted from the combination of physical and digital products, and the two have become increasingly interconnected, leading to opportunities for further innovation.
Corporations are realizing that physical and digital products are intertwined and can be used to enhance one another in both development and applications, with varied and far-reaching impact in areas such as human resources, strategy, execution, and customer expectations. It’s not just the products that are a mesh of physical and digital, it is also the systems that enable corporations to deliver products and services—this is the heart of the digital transformation.
The ISS is a strong example of how physical and digital products have come together as a system to advance both space exploration and science to benefit people on Earth. Additionally, by providing access to the ISS as a one-of-a-kind research platform, we are helping companies mesh digital and physical systems to enable unique research results and develop innovative technologies for use back on the ground that may not have been available otherwise.
At the conference, I spoke about the array of industries that had to come together to develop enabling technology on the ISS, which combines new and currently developing technologies with breakthroughs from more than 100 years ago. The real success is the mix of technology delivered from a diverse group of collaborators and embodies contributions spanning multiple different industries and backgrounds. Tools developed in one area or industry may be new and exciting innovations in another industry. Furthermore, through cross-industry interactions, we can find and really understand how to best employ these breakthroughs and derive the most value from them.
Additional highlights from the conference include keynote addresses from several notable experts in the areas of innovation and technology. Bob Evans, former chief communications officer of Oracle, spoke about high-impact digital transformation across multiple industries.
Dr. Howie Choset, co-director of the Biorobotics Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University and co-founder of the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute, discussed the shift from industrial robots to biologically inspired robots, which have provided numerous benefits back to biology. He also highlighted the importance of democratizing the use of robotics in both medicine and manufacturing and maintaining a workforce trained in these fields.
Dr. Leroy Hood, co-founder of the Institute for Systems Biology, former ISS National Lab Board Member, and 2019 IRI Medalist, discussed the digital breakthroughs in biotechnology that have enabled the industry and are now driving us toward improved medicines and better health.
The IRI Annual Conference is designed not to showcase the work of certain companies, but to help members share experiences and ideas that lead to innovation in the delivery of products and services to consumers. In the end, the real key to success is sharing and collaborating with partners that each bring a different perspective.