Academics, industry experts launch Internet innovation symposium

September 07, 2005

A triumvirate of University of Washington colleges will host the inaugural Seattle Innovation Symposium Sept. 13-14 to explore how university researchers and information technology leaders in the private sector can team up to identify and accelerate the creation of the Internet's next billion dollar market segments.

Professors and doctoral students in business, computer science and engineering and information science representing universities from the United States and abroad will exchange ideas with private sector experts to identify key innovations they believe need to be better understood through research before mainstream businesses can capitalize from them. The Internet was first used by scientists in 1972 and was not used commercially until 25 years later.

"It took nearly three decades to realize the potential of the Internet's commercial applications, so the question is, can we do it faster this time?" said Dick Nolan, professor of management and organization at the UW Business School. "By bringing together and building a network of multi-disciplined leaders in the study of innovation, we believe that we can reduce the time to transfer new innovation into economic value."

The approximately 100 participants will work in small teams. Each team will study one emerging technology and, through their analyses of its attributes and capabilities, determine a business application for it.

A goal of the conference is to establish what new technologies will drive business in the global economy and how researchers in academe and the technology industry can work collaboratively to influence the research agenda on an international scale.

In order to anticipate which future Internet-based market segments will emerge, Nolan and his colleagues have been studying innovation processes that have led to commercially-successful market segments like Adobe in graphic design, Google's search engine, RealNetworks in Internet audio and video and in online retailing.

Michael Eisenberg, dean of the UW's Information School, said that today's information technology environment is receiving limited research funding.

"We must have a better shared understanding of the interplay between research at universities, venture capitalists and industry researchers if we are to think creatively and constructively about the next market segments," said Eisenberg. "The UW Seattle Innovation Symposium will address the need to better understand how to make innovation and technology transfer more efficient," he added.

Organizers say progress in the information technology sector has been remarkable compared to any other major technology, but there's room for expediting its future uses. For example, it took 38 years for radio to reach a penetration of 50 million users; the PC reached 50 million users in 16 years. The Internet took four years.

Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the UW said, "By engaging business leaders and scientists in a dialogue we believe this conference will ultimately help accelerate the transition of ideas to the marketplace."

In addition to academic participants from Asia, Europe and North America, other groups sending representatives to the conference include Cisco Systems, Microsoft Corp. and Verizon Communications. Event sponsors include Verizon, WRF, and Gary Reed.
The conference is being presented by the UW's Business and Information Schools and the College of Engineering. Funding for the two-day conference is provided by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

For more information, contact Nolan at (206) 543-0067 or (617) 283-6517(; Eisenberg at (206) 616-1154 or or Lazowska at 206 543-4755 or

University of Washington

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