Sharp Irish creativity must be harnessed to pragmatic facilitators

Engineering, finance, distribution and sales must mesh with innovation

Albert Einstein:  “It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.”

Albert Einstein: “It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.”

 

‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” This quote is often attributed to Albert Einstein although there is some doubt that he actually distilled the observation so succinctly. Rather less simply – when discussing the methods of theoretical physics in 1933 – he asserted: “It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.”

I have often chuckled on how the quote attributed to him can be applied to his actual complex and expansive assertion.

I was recently reminded of the aphorism while chairing the judging panel for The Irish Times-Intertrade Ireland Innovation Awards 2015. There were 18 finalists, across six categories. As well as the category winners, the panel identified the best example of North-South collaboration and, vitally, an overall winner. These results will be announced at the gala awards event to be held in the City Hall in Belfast on April 17th.

It would be unfair of me to prematurely disclose the winners and I certainly do not wish to mis-set expectations. Nevertheless I would like to share my impressions from the judging day: I was intrigued.

Unneeded complexity

Dr Seuss

For an innovation to be successful, it must not only solve a problem but be pragmatic. It must be reliable, and safe to use. It must be economic to build, to sell, to distribute and to appeal to customers, if it is to be profitable for the innovator.

Several entrants studied existing methods and practices in different industries – among them construction, agrifood, security, medical, music and energy – and challenged whether there could be a simpler approach. Could there be a more elegant solution which, although simple, nevertheless actually worked? Frankly, I was stunned by how simple and brilliant several of the entries were. The teams involved re-examined current practices and came up with much better ways that were beautifully elegant and ingenious.

Potential inertia

Of course, an innovation which is simple may be easy for competitors to duplicate. Frequently our discussions during the day turned to patents and the protection of intellectual property. Many of the finalists had already taken steps in this direction. However, some had addressed the challenge of defending their innovation against competition in a further way. Although their innovation appeared wonderfully simple, nevertheless it was actually quite technically difficult to deliver. There were hidden engineering, algorithms and techniques which were not at all obvious, and so created a significant barrier to others attempting to replicate the idea.

The commercial opportunities for many of the entrants are considerable. Many of them have major and worldwide market potentials. During the judging, it was remarkable to see several world-class innovations. Given the relatively small size of the island of Ireland, it was impressive.

With adequate financial backing and experienced leadership, quite a few of the entries potentially could become global solutions. This perhaps then leads to the real challenge for economic policy.

There is an incredible treasure of confident creativity and commercial insight in Ireland, which is clearly yielding wonderful, elegant, practical and commercially attractive innovations.

Innovation-based engine

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.