Monthly Archives May 2018

In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.


We’re excited to announce the launch of GrowthPilot Insights, a series of white papers that grew out of our work on thousands of new product development projects. The papers distill what we’ve learned into simple principles and practical steps that any company can follow. The intro and the first paper at the link; others will follow in the coming months.

GrowthPilot Insights


POLYMERS | MANUFACTURING

New Polymer Manufacturing Process Saves 10 Orders of Magnitude of Energy

Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a new polymer-curing process that uses 10 orders of magnitude less energy and can cut two orders of magnitudes of time over the current manufacturing process. “This development marks what could be the first major advancement to the high-performance polymer and composite manufacturing industry in almost half a century,” said aerospace engineering professor and lead author Scott White. The findings, reported in Nature, describe a frontal polymerization method which uses the internal energy of the polymerization process—rather than external energy—to propagate the reaction and cure the material. [UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS]

INNOVATION | PODCAST

How to Think 10x Bigger (In Just 10 Minutes)

A short, tight talk by Dr. Astro Teller, CEO of X, Alphabet’s arm tasked with bringing its most audacious, difficult ideas to life. If you need to move truly new, technically demanding ideas off the drawing board and into the world, his description of how to run the teams attacking these challenges is as good as you will find anywhere. And it only takes about 10 minutes. You can stream the talk directly from the link, and—if you want to skip the intro—start at the 3:00 minute mark. [THE TIM FERRIS SHOW]

OCEAN SCIENCES | SENSORS | DRONES

This Man Is Building an Armada of Saildrones to Conquer the Ocean

Despite the ocean’s size and value, resources to study it are scant, and most of our data about global seas come from satellite readings and a smattering of sensor-equipped buoys. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is among the field’s best-funded research organizations and has all of 16 science ships, complemented by another 16 from university fleets. Australia has only one serious research vessel. Richard Jenkins is trying to change all this with his venture-backed startup, Saildrone Inc. [BLOOMBERG]

NUCLEAR POWER | ENERGY

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Move a Step Closer to Deployment

As a follow-up to the story on Thorium reactors we included two weeks ago, the first small modular reactor (SMR)—designed by UK-based NuScale Power—passed its Phase 1 review by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in late April. The SMR is designed to replace the one or more giant reactors in current nuclear power plants with smaller modular ones that can be assembled at a central facility and then shipped to the site for installation. [NEW ATLAS]

MATERIAL SCIENCE | BIOLOGY

Is Fungus the Material of the Future?

Fungus and slippers are two words that most people don’t want to read in the same sentence. However, scientists in the Netherlands are one step closer to changing people’s perceptions by creating everyday objects like chairs, lampshades and slippers using fungi—specifically oyster mushrooms. If you want to learn more and have 11 minutes to spare, there is an interesting video on the technology here. [SMITHSONIAN | MOTHERBOARD]

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Throughout our work week, in the course of our research for clients across many industries and fields, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we deliver five interesting things we came across during the preceding weeks. And no filler.

3D PRINTING | ELECTRONICS

3D Printing Circuits Onto Human Skin

Micheal McAlpine of the University of Minnesota has developed a technique to draw an electrical circuit directly onto the skin; uses could include chemical sensing, solar charging, heart monitoring, and more. The system uses computer vision to adjust its position in real time, allowing it to print complex designs onto unreliable surfaces. In addition to laying down “wires” composed of silver flakes in solution that cure at room temperature, the targeting system has also been used to layer cells onto an open wound on a mouse. [DISCOVER]

STRATEGY | MANAGEMENT | INNOVATION

Do You Have an Organization That Can Manage the Present and Invent the Future?

An open letter to CEOs from Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur (inventors of the Business Model Canvas). They point out that “innovation is only an expensive gamble when you do it wrong,” and then go on to lay out their view of a 21st century organizational structure that can be world class both at managing factories AND manufacturing new growth engines. “If you don’t want to end up like Kodak, Nokia, or Blackberry, then you have to start now.” [THINKGROWTH.ORG]

SLEEP SCIENCE | PODCAST

Your Lack of Sleep Is Killing You. Literally.

An intensely interesting, long-form interview with Matthew Walker, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Founder and Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science. Dr. Walker knows more about the science and impact of sleep than anyone alive, and he’s a great communicator. If you don’t have time to listen on your commute or in the gym, there’s a good review of Walker’s recent book, “Why We Sleep,” here. In addition to the link at the headline, you can also find the podcast on iTunes or anywhere else that carries popular podcasts. PG13 warning: the interviewer, Joe Rogan, occasionally uses colorful language, and there is a brief discussion of mind-altering substances. [THE JOE ROGAN EXPERIENCE]

NUCLEAR POWER | ENERGY

This Is How a Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Works

After nearly forty years of almost no development, interest in thorium for clean power generation is picking up again, with new plants coming on line in the Netherlands and China. Thorium is incredibly abundant in the Earth’s crust, and molten salt thorium reactors have many advantages over existing plant designs: they can’t melt down, produce almost no plutonium, can—in fact—consume plutonium from existing stockpiles, produce only tiny amounts of other transuranics, are smaller and cheaper to operate than traditional fast breeders, and produce waste that remains dangerous for a much shorter time. [POPULAR SCIENCE]

MATERIAL SCIENCE | SENSORS

Graphene Opens Up New Applications for Microscale Resonators

A range of sensing and communications technologies, such as satellites, already rely on tiny devices called resonators—also known as vibrating microelectromechanical and nanoelectromechanical systems (MEMS/NEMS). But engineers have faced limits in the temperatures these tiny components can withstand and the range of frequencies that they can pick up. Now scientists at Case Western Reserve University have constructed resonators out of a single layer of graphene that can withstand high temperatures and operate across a broad range of frequencies. [C&EN]

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