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Incubating Innovation: Educational Partnerships

Self-healing tires; robots that invent their own language; and flying drones that safeguard highway motorists…such technologies could make our lives easier, but wouldn't happen outside of a sci-fi novel. Or could they?

X PRIZE Foundation chairman and founder, Peter Diamandis, thinks they can. “We're going to start seeing a rate of innovation that will scare all of us.”

University research promises disruptive changes in biotechnologies, robotics, networked sensors, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, but how do we bring all of this research to market? Global manufacturing partners that produce the world’s consumer goods believe partnering with research institutions may just be the key.

With research institutions' main goal being to invent and discover new technologies, methods and materials, they’re not always focused on technology transfer to the market. However, partnering with a global manufacturing company with deep expertise in optimizing manufacturing processes at scale, universities find an outlet to apply their ideas in real-world scenarios. Interestingly, recent findings suggest that, “investment in R&D is not synonymous with innovation.” In other words, manufacturers might not necessarily gain added innovation by spending more on research and development internally. However, through university partnerships, the research becomes available to manufacturers without huge capital investments. Universities gain prestige, student internships that provide experiential learning opportunities on complex, real-world problems, research grant opportunities, intellectual property and more.

 

U.S. Looks to Manufacturing for Innovation

The White House recently announced a call-to-arms in domestic advanced manufacturing partnerships between industry and academia, with investments totaling more than $500 million dollars. The Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, an initiative launched by U.S. President Barrack Obama, aims to encourage university and manufacturer research partnerships to strengthen U.S. advanced manufacturing. Advanced manufacturing relies on emerging technologies like nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, robotics, and advanced materials to build the products the future demands, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles/drones, smart medical devices, cloud computing infrastructure, robotic limbs and more.

 

Education Partnerships

With funding from the U.S. government, academic research institutions and U.S. manufacturers have a unique opportunity to bring research to market, producing consumer products that might otherwise remain in a university laboratory. By minimizing costs, both universities and manufacturers have more resources to focus on intellectual property, commercialization and infrastructure. Even more important, collaborative partnerships provide training for advanced manufacturing’s next generation of innovators.

Jabil is aggressively building university partnerships globally. In fact, Jabil’s design team is working with leading researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering in Jena, Germany. The teams are working closely to improve camera lens technology using biomimicry modeled after insects’ complex, multi-faceted eye structures.

Former intern and current Technical Project Manager at Jabil, Girish Wable, oversees an internship program for the Advanced Technology Group and is on the lookout for university interns that want to apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios.  He has presented to groups of engineering students, represented Jabil in a career fair and is mentoring a student chapter involved in electronics manufacturing at USF.

“I benefited from the program that was established in our group developing printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) innovations. I am now extending this into diversified manufacturing and am seeking engagements with universities that have programs in robotics, plastics, medical devices, automation, RF/wireless, instrumentation, printed electronics, additive manufacturing, and technology platforms aligned with the company’s strategic direction. Jabil benefits from the fresh vision, enthusiasm and ability to select and incubate the talent it needs for today and most importantly for developing innovations for tomorrow," said Wable. Jabil plans to strategically leverage the association with key schools and the relevant research conducted at the centers when necessary. Mentoring students and listening to their candid feedback allows the engineering and management staff to reflect on their own work and provides them the opportunity to seek innovations that lead to manufacturing improvement, according to Wable.

With U.S. government support, manufacturers and research partners can bring novel research to market by creating futuristic devices capable of everything customers expect, before they expect it. If your company is developing tomorrow’s technology today, does your manufacturing partner foster research partnerships with universities that will help your products change the World?

 

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