Voiceover: The Ideas to Innovation Podcast from Clarivate.
Joan Walker: Hello, I’m Joan Walker, and welcome to The Ideas to Innovation Podcast. In this brand new series, we’ll be talking to the people who live and breathe the process of turning ideas into innovation. The technologies that we depend on, the medicines that we rely on, the electricity that powers our day-to-day life, they were all once ideas before becoming inventions, inventions that have changed our lives for the better. Join the conversation with experts and industry leaders to discuss innovation at its core.
Every year since 2012, Clarivate identifies the Top 100 Global Innovators. These are companies and institutions at the pinnacle of the global innovation landscape that have contributed new ideas, solved some of the world’s most complex challenges, and created new value.
Today, we have guests from two of those 100 companies and institutions to join us to talk about the value of innovation culture, how businesses today go about creating and sustaining an innovative company, and embracing the sustainability imperative. Joining us today are Dave Knapp, Vice President of Research and Development for Peripheral Interventions at Boston Scientific, and Ed White, Head of Analytics IP Group at Clarivate. Welcome, Dave, welcome, Ed.
Dave Knapp: Thank you, Joan.
Ed White: Thank you, Joan.
Joan Walker: Great to have you both here. Just tell me very briefly– This is just us chatting off-topic. What’s life like in Minnesota, Dave?
Dave Knapp: First of all, I just wanted to thank you and thank Clarivate for the opportunity to be here today. I have to say things here in Minnesota after about a year and a half that we’ve just had, life has been slowly getting back to some sense of normalcy, but one thing I wanted to mention is that in our site, which is, of course, a manufacturing site and we do development work, our employees have been on-site or many of them throughout the entire pandemic. Just a shout out to them and that they have been essential workers throughout that time. I can’t say how much that inspires me and how much I appreciate that.
I did want to say just I’ve worked my entire career in medical devices and it’s really been about patient care which is just really absolutely in line with our mission, which is transforming lives through innovative medical solutions that improve the healthcare of patients around the world. If I had to say one underlying theme of my career here in Minnesota and also in Boston at Boston Scientific has been that empathy is essential to innovation because the work that we do at Boston Scientific involves cutting-edge technology, these projects involve long timelines, and they tend to be high risk, and we need this relentless drive to do better.
The empathy that we have for our customers, for patients who receive our care is paramount for actually driving these innovations over the finish line. Again, thrilled to be here and to be part of this discussion.
Joan Walker: Thank you for that, Dave. That’s really interesting. It’s interesting to hear that word empathy within such a scientific context. No, that’s not to say obviously ever that the two are divorced, but it’s wonderful to put it firmly into that arena. Ed, hello. Tell me where you are.
Ed White: I’m based in London from a Clarivate perspective, but I’m currently about 60 miles north, northwest of my home in the right at the top of Buckinghamshire County in the UK. I’m very lucky to be deep in the countryside, Joan.
Joan Walker: How lovely. How lovely. Ed, would you tell us a little bit about yourself, your work, and your connection to, and your experience in this innovation landscape?
Ed White: Absolutely. My background and my role, I would really summarize as being a kind of professional measure of innovation.
Joan Walker: That’s a great image. In my head, I’ve got you there with a huge two-meter rule.
Ed White: [laughs] It’s not massively far off, Joan, and actually, it goes back to my initial technical specialisms were in instrumentation and measurement in technical systems. Actually, there’s a common theme there, but what I do is I lead our analytics services group within Clarivate Advisory and Analytics Practice.
What we do as a group is we work with companies and with research institutions or government agencies to really help them navigate the ideas and the ecosystems that surround their research and plot out how they align against its likely future shape, what it’s potentially going to look like in future. We do have a really clear mission. We have this mission to clarify what the future looks like so that all of our customers, when they’re coming up with new ideas and new approaches, they create them or they are created from a position of knowledge.
I’ve been at Clarivate for 20 years. Clarivate or its forebears for 20 years. For most of that time, I’ve been working on how we can use these massive innovation content sets and databases that we have at our fingertips to provide that guidance and to really push the boundaries of what can be sensibly or usefully measured. As part of that, our team is responsible for the production of the Top 100 Global Innovators program.
Joan Walker: Excellent. That is a really excellent stepping stone into my next point, which is, I think congratulations are in order, Dave. Boston Scientific features on this year’s Top 100 Global Innovators. In fact, I believe that in the 10 years of the Top 100 Global Innovators, Boston Scientific has been recognized many times, and that is an achievement.
Dave, can you tell us, what does it mean to be a top 100 global innovator? How does it feel? How does Boston Scientific go about sustaining a culture and a commitment to innovation?
Dave Knapp: First of all, we couldn’t be more thrilled to be recognized this way, but the bottom line is that– and I can only speak from my personal experience with over 20 years at Boston Scientific to think about long-term success. The key for us is meaningful innovation. It is the lifeblood of the company. There are a lot of solutions out there that we could go after and solutions that are, I would say, not rooted in a real need, but we try and focus on something that are the most significant problems and that are the needs that need to be solved. When we say meaningful innovation, that’s what we mean by that.
Our success has been really focused on highly engaged teams within the company. These are problem solvers, these are our project managers, the engineer scientists across functional teams and they’re making sure that they’re working on the right problems. Basically, this has been the winning formula for us.
Over an extended period of time, what I’ve observed at the company is that the values and behaviors that I just talked about have become the innovation culture. As the company matures and we grow, I’m convinced that this is what has fueled the success that we’ve had in meeting our customer needs and then transforming lives.
Joan Walker: From what you’re saying, it feels like that it is an extraordinary place to work with all of those key values, very, very firmly in place.
Dave Knapp: Absolutely. One thing I would say is that we live our values. I’ll talk a bit about that, but these are not just words on the wall as you walk in into our facilities. We use them, I’m using them right now as I talk to you every day. It really has become an integral part of who we are.
Joan Walker: It’s not that you’re just paying lip service to what sounds pretty good, but you’re actually, as you say, you’re living it.
Dave Knapp: Correct.
Joan Walker: Excellent. Now, Ed, I read that in this year’s Top 100 Global Innovators report that Clarivate looked at innovation culture and its value. Could you tell us a little bit more about how you went about it and what you uncovered because I would imagine that is quite a process in itself?
Ed White: We’re very lucky to have a very fun and a very engaged team that puts this program together every single year. This theme, this narrative that we pulled out in the report for 2021, it all came about really in the planning stages. This was coming up to be at the time, but it is our 10th edition of the report and 10-year anniversary.
We were batting around the idea of doing something retrospective, something of a look back. From that, came a few different themes. We had these 29 companies that over the 10 years of the program had never left the top 100. We also noticed that, on average, they were over a century old. From that, came the idea of looking at their foundational stories, going all the way back to the beginnings of these companies, and looking at the pressures and the motivations of their founders.
Those stories are incredibly fascinating. Things that I didn’t know, and I assume many people didn’t know. Things like the company Hitachi, which all of us have heard of, that’s named after the village where its founder was working in the maintenance department of the local copper mine.
Joan Walker: [chuckles]
Ed White: We discovered that the pharmaceutical firm Roche they have, I think, it’s the tallest building or second tallest building in Switzerland as their skyscraper headquarters, but it’s still on the same street where the original drug store was from over a century ago.
Joan Walker: Now that’s extraordinary, isn’t it?
Ed White: It’s amazing. There’s these wonderful stories of the foundations of Intel and AMD in the struggles of early Silicon Valley, or another one that I like which is Steve Jobs, he disliked three-letter acronym name so much that he called his company Apple, in rebellion against that.
Joan Walker: [chuckles]
Ed White: Those stories are fantastic, but beyond that, we wanted to explore this idea that, actually very similar to what Dave has been talking about in terms of values, there’s something in the water at these firms. There’s an inherent strength that’s rooted in an itch to improve things, even when that improvement may well make their existing product lines, their existing sources of revenues reduce or even disappear and possibly even go so far to say that it’s especially if there is a technical improvement that can have that effect. Essentially, it’s a discomfort with the status quo, with the current solution. That’s–
Joan Walker: Can I just ask you a quick question there, Ed?
Ed White: Of course, yes.
Joan Walker: Do you ever think that a company sort of adopts the idea for change just for change’s sake to show that they are changing and keeping up with the times, even when, say, a product might be working perfectly well?
Ed White: Change for change’s sake, I think, would be something that most companies and most strategists would want to avoid. It is usually going to be in response to something, as Dave was talking about. Often the most common one is, what are your customers’ needs and how have they changed over time? That’s going to be the primary driver of something you need to make a change to, but it can also be, of course, that the market changes, or the regulation changes, or the world changes as we’ve discovered in the last 18 months.
I find this really interesting because the piece around culture and innovation culture it is a really interesting idea because in some senses it’s kind of paradoxical. Innovation and new ideas is, by definition, looking over the horizon and coming up with something new, coming up with something that hasn’t been done before, but the ability to do that over and over and over again thousands of times. In the case of the companies that we look at in top 100 and Boston Scientific, it’s over decades or even centuries.
That is based on culture, on habit, on heritage. You have this paradox of innovation is focused on the new, but the power and strength of being able to do it, not just once but many times, that comes from this heritage component. We being Clarivate, it immediately came with the question, can we measure that? Can we enumerate that in that inherent strength?
Actually, as it turns out for the Top 100 Global Innovators, that’s relatively easy. We have these firms that have always been there or that appear at the top of the pile all of the time. There is quite a lot, too. That’s right. I want to declare that just measuring patent output is not the complete picture, but when we did just look at the top 100 process, we looked at the corporate value over the lifetime of the program of these firms. We compared it to a control group of companies that used to be in the top 100 at the beginning but have dropped out, and we see this absolutely enormous value gap.
On average, it was $56 billion of value difference per company. It’s more than doubled their value, and that’s huge. What that means is that having this something in the water is worth an awful lot.
Joan Walker: Absolutely. Back to the idea of measuring, how do you measure what that something in the water is? Because is that sort of like- or when you describe, say, a person and you say, “They just got that thing that whatever it is, that star quality, that [foreign language]” How would you identify that with these super-fantastic story companies?
Ed White: Well, the first one that we’re using here is just consistency. They’re always at the top. That’s the first piece where it’s not just coming up with one idea or tens of ideas, it’s coming up with hundreds or thousands of ideas. That’s the first piece that we would look at. Then, of course, there’s the elements that the program directly measures. In that, we are looking at how often the research work of Boston Scientific or any of the other companies that we have in the top 100 how often that work is influencing the research and the work of other companies whoever they may be.
That’s an example of one of the metrics where it’s not just an idea. It’s an impactful idea. Just to put it in context, there is something like 150, 000 ideas that are being measured in any one period of this program. It’s scale, but it’s also impact and consistency.
Joan Walker: Ed, thank you so much for that. Dave, back to you. Can I ask? What do you think about the data from Clarivate that points to innovation culture being a powerful indicator of a company’s long-term success? How does that sit with you?
Dave Knapp: It’s a great question, and it’s one that I have thought about. It’s really been a fundamental question for me because the reality is that companies can get innovation a lot of different ways and should get innovation from a lot of different ways. In order to really build that innovation culture, kind of in the way that Ed was talking about and I fully agree with his assessments of what an innovative company looks like, I think that there needs to be a relentless focus on values.
For us, as I said earlier, we have actually six values. Some of them– You may have heard of things like meaningful innovation, diversity, and inclusion, but the one which you may not hear at many companies is winning spirit.
Joan Walker: Winning spirit.
Dave Knapp: Winning spirit. This is one that was really the, I would say, brought in with our current CEO, Mike Mahoney, who’s been at the helm for 10 years at the company, brought this to bear. It’s really about always putting and pushing ourselves at the edge and pushing ourselves further, celebrating success without becoming complacent on the wins that we have.
In healthcare, we had never arrived. There’s always more we can do to benefit patients. That’s what drives us every single day. In fact, every year, we celebrate that by getting together, when we can, obviously, and hearing those patients’ stories. We invite patients to speak about what their experience has been like, and it’s always the most inspiring time for us is to hear the impact that that has had.
Over time, that idea of winning spirit has had a very material effect on the success of Boston Scientific in reaching our goals. I can only speak to my experience here where I’ve seen a very direct correlation between that culture that has been built here and the success of the company.
Joan Walker: I love this idea of winning spirit, because, again, what you were saying very early on in our discussion about the whole– It feels like you are in a very empathetic world and you’re, obviously, looking to how you can improve life for all those clients, patients who are in your wider orbit. I love this winning spirit because, for me, what that says that you’re never going to stop.
Dave Knapp: Exactly. Any kind of development or research in development involves failures, involves pushing through knowledge gaps. These are difficult. If you’re doing something meaningful, it’s hard, right?
Joan Walker: Yes.
Dave Knapp: What keeps us going– Some of these projects, honestly, will take 10 years to complete from beginning to end. When we think about what that takes, like to work on a project that long and it needs to be meaningful and the basis, the need needs to be absolutely solid and understanding exactly what the customer, in our case, many times a physician or a provider needs understanding how this is going to impact a patient’s life. There just couldn’t be anything more motivational to fuel that winning spirit that we’re talking about.
Joan Walker: Absolutely. Which brings me actually to my next point. Given that we are almost a year and a half into this pandemic and we are starting globally to see businesses and economies and daily lives resemble some sense of normality again, but as this new virus seems to produce variants on a daily basis, it seems to show that the fight against the pandemic is far from over and vaccine makers are looking at better understanding how long vaccine immunity lasts and developing booster shots to tackle new variants, but innovation doesn’t stop. If anything, it’s accelerating as both of you will attest to. My question to you both, and I will start with you, Dave, if I may is, is it possible to innovate out of a crisis?
Dave Knapp: Yes. Innovation is all about problem-solving and, obviously, in a crisis, problem-solving is absolutely critical. The only way through really is innovation. Obviously, the pandemic was, for us, both a real challenge to our business, but we also saw it as an opportunity because the strengths that we had prior to the pandemic and prior to the crisis, really equipped us to be able to move through the crisis.
We really wanted to double down on those strengths in order to really help, not just with our business goals, but also more broadly. A good example of that that I wanted to highlight has to do with collaboration. If I had to put something next to empathy in terms of the way that I have led my career, as well as I think is fundamental, one of our key values, at Boston Scientific, is global collaboration. Nobody solves a problem in a vacuum. We have really built, over many years, an innovation ecosystem. We work with startups, universities, hospitals, medical centers. We have so many institutions within the ecosystem that we play in.
The reality is that when COVID hit, we needed to really go to that ecosystem. One example of that is we worked with University of Minnesota and United Health Group to develop and deploy an emergency resuscitator that could be used when ventilators weren’t available. That was called the Coventor.
That project, and the way that it was done really, again, built on the strengths that we had built prior to the pandemic, which were those relationships that I talked about. In addition to that, it also pushed us to work with more urgency and more quickly than ever before. We were really proud and there were several projects that we did that were like that. We were really proud that we were able to do that work during the pandemic and help in any way that we could.
Joan Walker: That’s a wonderful example, the Coventor. I’ve just made a little note of that. It must’ve been extraordinary to see the teams working and accelerating to actually get this piece of equipment up and running and lifesaving.
Dave Knapp: Absolutely. I think if you go back and ask members of those teams what their experience was, they would say that that probably ranks up there in terms of one of the most gratifying, satisfying experiences that they have had because they knew that they were helping in that way.
Joan Walker: I can imagine. Ed, may I ask you the same question? Is it possible to innovate out of a crisis?
Ed White: Yes, I agree with what Dave said at the beginning of his answer, which is that innovation is about problem-solving. I think that all new ideas ultimately come from a desire to change something. A lot of the time that’s going to be something is wrong. Most of the time that is something small. It’s something really incremental. It could be a member of Dave’s team working on a small part of an electronic circuit that can be made more efficient, or it could be just amending the shape of a wind turbine blade so that it generates a quarter of a percent more energy per turn. It’s something really tiny, but sometimes the stimulus is very large indeed.
The combination of forces in the 18 months so far, COVID is very much in that large category. Of course, we’ve got COVID-19 itself. The vaccine development at enormous pace multiple times with extraordinary success. These vaccines work, things like what Dave is talking about in terms of interventions for those with the disease.
On top of that, we also have had the effect of the responses to the pandemic, lockdowns, and the heavy economic burden that shifted the world of remote work forward by a decade in less than a month. We have industries like hospitality and retail that had to switch business models very, very rapidly just to survive.
We’ve experienced possibly the biggest economic and industrial shift of the last 50 years in such a short time scale. It would have seemed impossible two years ago, based on a shock that we didn’t really have prior warning of. I think my answer, Joan, this could seem a little trite, but my answer to this question is, is it possible to innovate out of a crisis? I think this is humanity, doing things differently in the face of adversity or changing circumstances is almost our defining characteristic. It’s what we do. The larger the shock, the larger the spark for a bigger shift.
There’s another piece to this though. Listening to Dave talking about the collaboration that Boston Scientific was doing with academic institutions, there is another story to hit this as well, which I think can go unnoticed or at least less noticed. We talk about the rapid pace of innovation and the rapid specific pieces of technical development that’s happened since February 2020. Of course, that’s true, but we aren’t talking so often of the innovation muscle our economies already had that enabled that rapid pace, that allowed it to happen.
All of the things like the government science funding, the academic research institutions, the corporate R&D functions, the ecosystems, the infrastructure, the collaborative networks, the people, the experts, the educators that created those people and experts, all of that preexisted COVID, and it acted as our societal backstop that was there when we needed them. That has massive, massive value.
Joan Walker: Yes, you’re absolutely right. That fabric, largely, was in place just waiting to actually be utilized. That brings me actually onto my next point, which is out of crisis often comes opportunity, which is, I think, what you were just getting towards, Ed, and the pandemic has helped to boost awareness of the importance of long-term sustainability over short term profits.
My question, again, to both of you, how can companies embrace today’s sustainability imperative in their own innovation practices, their processes, and life cycle? Dave, may I start with you again?
Dave Knapp: Absolutely. Sustainability has been part of our fundamental process and it’s something that we take as a holistic imperative for the company. The medical device industry is very much a manufacturing industry to build and distribute our devices. For us, a lot of innovation, as well as sustainability focus has to do with manufacturing. We really look at starting with manufacturing, but really across our entire operation.
As a global company with– We have manufacturing sites all over the world and we recognize that the way we operate must be sustainable because we need to be good stewards in the communities where we operate. As a company, we have made a commitment to carbon neutrality in our manufacturing distribution by 2030, and we’ve made significant progress towards that goal.
We look at a range of factors, including our carbon footprint, energy use, green real estate, and renewable energy, and we’ve set up goals like using 50% renewable electricity by the end of this year. We’re taking it step by step. We know we’re going to get there.
Joan Walker: Excellent. Thanks for that, Dave. Now, Ed, I’ve heard that sustainability is at the core of everything that Clarivate does. Can you tell us a little bit more about it? How do you help companies solve some of the world’s most complex problems to build a better future?
Ed White: Yes. I actually feel that we are very lucky. I’m very lucky individually to work at a company that has the ability to reduce the impact and footprint of industry and economics on our planet. Our job at Clarivate ultimately is to provide clarity, guidance, essentially, to innovators so that they can come up with solutions from a position of knowledge.
I can give an example of how this works in a sustainability context. This very month we are helping one of our customers figure out how they can charge an electric vehicle battery more efficiently. If electric vehicles can be recharged more quickly, that will have the effect of making them an easier switch for consumers. We have worked on data investigations for lighter batteries, for batteries that store more energy that are less costly to manufacture.
We’ve worked on how hydrogen can be used as a fuel for aircraft or we’ve looked at automated electric shipping. This is all in the last year. All of it is targeted at making the way that goods and people move through the world without the use of CO2 emitting and finite burned fossil fuels.
Our central mission and reason for being in business has, at its core, a more sustainable, less harmful world but of course, it isn’t enough for it to just be our commercial service. We also need to live sustainability as a company ourselves. Being a carbon-neutral farm, placing diversity and inclusion at the heart of our decision-making, having integrity and ethics as our first performance metric, rather than tacked on at the end, and being part of the communities that we live in. These things aren’t really nice to have, as our CEO, Jerre Stead, says, “It is our glue, they are central to our strategy and the way that we operate.”
Joan Walker: Yes. Thank you for that. Now, can I ask you both, did the pandemic lead to any changes to how you embraced sustainability in your innovation approach?
Dave Knapp: I think that when we talk about sustainability in the pandemic, there were massive changes here locally at all of our sites, in terms of transportation. I think one area that I can point to where, obviously, there was a huge impact. We were just talking about this earlier, Ed and I, were travel. Everybody’s travel was so severely impacted and so we all know that these have a positive impact on sustainability.
Travel, in particular, I think we think about travel differently today than we did before the pandemic.
Joan Walker: True.
Dave Knapp: With the ability for us to meet virtually from a global perspective and our levels of travel are never going to get back to where they were. I think that’s one example of where I think that could have a positive impact on sustainability. I think the other aspect of this is just thinking about, as Ed was talking about, thinking about our communities that we work in and having a community mindset that has really been needed in order to tackle the pandemic. I think the same mindset is going to be needed to tackle sustainability issues going forward.
Dave Knapp: Sure, absolutely. Ed, would you like to add anything to that?
Ed White: Yes. Within Clarivate from a sustainability perspective, firstly, I’d say that the last 18 months– I’m not sure, Joan, is particularly tied with the pandemic, but this has been the year that we have really focused on a sustainability agenda at Clarivate with our target of being a part of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index by 2024. From the pandemic perspective, there’s a few things I would say and I think they’re fairly similar to Dave, what you were saying. There was an easy win nobody got on an airplane in the last year, right?
Joan Walker: Yes.
Ed White: Our footprint as an organization, obviously, has been significantly affected by that but I think that’s the same for absolutely everybody. What I would say is that the switch to having 8,500 employees, none of whom go in the office for a year meant that the importance that we placed on inclusivity and inclusion hugely changed. I can see that in our company from a couple of directions. One is we have several groups in the company that are focused on diversity so things like our LGBTQ diversity group, Women At Clarivate, I think minority diversity groups, those have seen huge uptake during the pandemic not just from the individual member perspective, but right across the company.
The other thing that I would say is that the move to remote work and less commuting and being part of our communities, there has been a huge increase in the amount of volunteering hours that our colleagues have been able to put in. I think it’s enabled us to focus a little bit more on ourselves and our well-being and the well-being of the communities around us
Joan Walker: Indeed. In terms of sustainability, should we ever return to some previous numbers of occupancy in offices? Do you think what you’ve just discussed, Ed, do you think that those figures will change? Do you think people will want to stay say working at home and continue having remote meetings?
Ed White: I think it’s going to be a blend. I think it’s going to be a mix. I think that at Clarivate we see office space as changing its function. It will no longer be the place where you go to sit at the desk and do some work. I think that that’s probably clear, but offices will still have a very central position for us from the perspective of making sure that our colleagues are interacting or collaborating or working together.
I can see in the future us having a smaller physical footprint as an organization, but what that footprint is for changes its reasons for its existence. Actually, now it seems almost wasteful, right? In hindsight, that you would go to an office for eight hours to just sit at a desk. That now seems somewhat silly which is interesting. I think everyone’s going to be finding their feet with these processes and, for sure, it will change again but some of the things that we’ve done will not go back, but it will be a mix.
Joan Walker: Yes. It’s an interesting one which make you think where are we going to be in a year’s time. Now, Dave, can I ask you if you could tell us a little bit more about the innovation Boston Scientific has undertaken to build a better future?
Dave Knapp: Sure. It’s so hard to single out a particular example. The company is very broad. We’re so proud about the devices and therapies that change lives and often they save lives and it’s true across every division of the company and every corner of our business. Really, if you think about changing lives and saving lives, what could be having more of an impact on building a better future?
One area that I can single out because it’s near and dear to my heart is that of vascular disease because it’s the area that I’m spending really all of my energy now at Boston Scientific and the level of unmet need is so great in this space. I think the arterial space has long been known people with blockages in their arteries, et cetera, but now the venous space is also being more recognized globally in terms of the disease burden there and the unmet clinical need.
It’s really, as I said, it’s a global issue and there are so many individuals whose quality of life has been impacted whether it be a clot or a blockage. We’re working to develop and bring, to the clinic, solutions such as combinations, using a combination of a drug and a device together in these spaces to improve patient outcomes and to address disease locally right where the treatment is needed. So important.
Really, these therapies are making a difference. It’s differentiated from things like systemic therapies, like some drugs that might be used that can have side effects. I believe it is the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is possible for this kind of approach in the years ahead and that’s why I’m so excited about how it could affect patients, not only today but far into the future.
Joan Walker: Yes. Thank you for that. Can I just ask what might be a slightly thorny question, given the, as we’ve already discussed, the acceleration that was made in the last 18 months and you were talking about the piece of equipment, the Coventor, and that was really put into the spotlight and put into use and has been lifesaving, could that same level of acceleration– and I’m not suggesting speeding the process up, making dangerous, but could that level of acceleration be put into the vascular disease research that you’re talking about?
Dave Knapp: Yes. It’s a fantastic question and we’re always looking to get our innovation out to the market as fast as is, I would say, necessary. I’ll put it that way. For me, it has to do with the level of risk involved in developing these, and what we have to balance on the one side, you alluded to it, is patients are waiting, so we’d want to get out there as quickly as possible but, on the flip side, once we do come out with an implant that might go into your leg or other blood vessels in your body, could be in the heart. Think about the level of, basically, assurance that we need to have that that is safe and effective.
So our process is designed to ensure that that happens. Again, we do care about speed and we want to see that happen and sometimes things can be accelerated, sometimes they can’t. I would say, in the end, I care, in some ways, more about the ultimate performance of the solutions that we come out with and their impact, their positive impact than I do about getting them out ever so quickly.
Joan Walker: I understood. Now, Ed, I want to return to you, and this is coming full circle back to the Top 100 Global Innovators. Clarivate also publishes the Innovators To Watch. Are you seeing sustainability at the core of how these companies are innovating?
Ed White: It’s a good question. The Innovators To Watch piece is interesting because it gives us the ability to dive into the companies that are just outside that top 100 list. They’re the companies and institutions that have characteristics or are on a trajectory to enter that list over the next few years. We actually ran this for the first time in 2020 and, actually, we saw quite good predictive results. This is a list that says, we think these companies could be in the top 100, and out of the 25 that we identified last year, six of them did.
Another way of looking at that is that there were nine total new entrants this year, and six of them were correctly predicted, two-thirds prediction. Because this is a list of companies and institutions, sustainability themes are probably more inferred than direct, but for this year, one of the highlights is a very solid data point around automotive companies.
This is the mobility topic coming to the fore and with the wider trend around electric vehicles, and the focus of automotive companies on sustainable solutions, I would point to that. Another one would be that we are seeing an increase in diversity of geographies in the Innovators To Watch list. This year, for example, containing companies and institutions from India and the Middle East and that would be a first for the top 100.
There’s another piece to this as well that I would say, Joan, around sustainability topics in the macro sense. We are very lucky here at Clarivate to have models that we can apply to all patented inventions, some 31 million over the last 20 years. Those models look for emerging trends. They look for the trends where companies and patent applicants are expending an awful lot of energy and resource and then they’re doing it right now.
When we look in that sweet spot, we see renewable energy. Aviation and automotive industries, heating and refrigeration, battery technology. All of these are sustainability topics. They all involve the way energy is used or stored or transferred. It’s top of the pile in terms of influence and in terms of where innovation is headed, that is amazing.
That’s a massively inspiring data point and a cause for optimism because the key goal here is not to make renewable and sustainable platforms that are just better for the environment or less reliant on non-renewable resources or are less harmful on habitat. That’s obviously the end goal, the outcome, but they won’t have uptake unless they are cheaper, unless they are inherently better as solutions.
Seeing that innovation trend means that we are on a pathway to that and it means that once that happens, the switch from a dirtier, more harmful fossil fuel-powered world to a cleaner renewable one is a no-brainer. It will make building a new coal-fired power station an economically irrational thing to do, which– that’s really the goal.
It’s also worth noting that in those models, the themes and technologies that sit right next to those sustainability topics are things like software and automation and connectivity and material science innovation. These are really the enablers. They’re the platforms on which sustainability topics can happen from. I’ll also point out and Dave will be heartened to hear that we see in that sweet spot topics around well-being and health, and very specifically around medical devices.
Joan Walker: Excellent. On that note, Ed, thank you. I just want to ask both of you very briefly as a little sign-off. Are there any final words of advice for aspiring and established innovators the world over? Let me start with you, Dave, what would you like to just drop into the pool of innovation?
Dave Knapp: We obviously work with startups. We work with aspiring innovators, physician inventors, et cetera. It’s actually one of the most exciting parts of the work that we do is that every innovation that we do really comes from, usually, a physician and an engineer collaborating. Being part of that duo is, again, it’s one of the best things about doing this kind of work.
The advice I could give for aspiring innovators is truly listening to learn. Really focusing on that unmet need because, all too often, people are thinking about imposing a solution or a technology onto what they see as a need, and when I think about the value that can be gained by just truly focusing on the need and really nailing that, that is the foundation upon which everything else is built and I would say that’s been something that I would say is a bellwether for me in terms of whether or not aspiring innovators are truly successful.
The other part of your question was about established innovators. I would say, the flip side of that, pay attention to what aspiring innovators are doing and how they do things and learn from that and if we can essentially cast off the shackles of being a large company and all of the potential problems that are associated with that from an innovation perspective and really behave like and structure ourselves so that we can work like a smaller organization, then I think we can be nimble and really get at some tough problems.
Joan Walker: That’s excellent actually, and I love the word nimble because obviously where you work is a very large organization, but I like the idea of being nimble. That is wonderful. Ed, may I have your brief, final words of advice?
Ed White: At Clarivate, we’re in the privileged position to see innovation in the world at a very high level in the round, but my advice to aspiring and established innovators the world over is never think that what you’re working on is too small or inconsequential, everything counts, it all counts. It all adds up in the end.
I’d also say, and I’m kind of bound to say this because it’s what we do for a living, but use data, use the data that sits around you to help. The patent system exists to teach and inform. That’s why it’s there in the first place and the techniques of using that data to guide what you do and where you go with it are more advanced today than ever before, so use it.
Joan Walker: Excellent. Thank you. I just want to thank you both for a really engaging conversation about the Top 100 Global Innovators. So thank you, Dave Knapp.
Dave Knapp: Thank you. It’s been a great conversation.
Joan Walker: It’s been really excellent, and thank you, Ed White.
Ed White: Thank you, Joan.
Joan Walker: Innovation continues to inspire and accelerate the world to better, more sustainable times ahead as we have heard. You can follow and listen to Ideas to Innovation for engaging, informative, and inspirational content with insights you can use. Now available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast directories. Share, like, review, or join the conversation with your comments on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook by clicking on the Share link. Thank you for joining us. Until next time, I’m Joan Walker. Goodbye.
Voiceover: The Ideas to Innovation Podcast from Clarivate.
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