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Innovation: The Long View

The following is an excerpt from a series of articles in the September/October issue of Paper360° focusing on Research and Development in the pulp and paper industry.

Innovation is a long-term investment. That’s the unanimous response from research faculty leaders when Paper360° posed this question: How can the industry as a whole foster research innovation?

Students Vincent Li and Devin Roach, with Dr. Norman Marsolan, examine a 3D-printed vase made from biopolymer material at the Renewable Bioproducts Institute at Georgia Tech, Atlanta.

Dr. Gary M. Scott, SUNY: “By understanding the multifaceted mission and long-term mission of the university. We are not solely focused on immediate research results; we also provide engineering and management training for future researchers and leaders in the industry. An investment in the training of Ph.D students today is a long-term investment: their training now may lead to major discoveries later in their careers.”

Dr. Stephen Kelley, NCSU: “The answer may be predicated on a university-industry liaison that goes beyond a traditional directed funding paradigm. Research innovation needs degrees of freedom (e.g., a long event horizon) that go beyond the short-term demands of industry. Finally, strong relationships must be cultivated that allow for true collaboration by regular meetings and close partnerships.”

Dr. Shri Ramaswamy, University of Minnesota: “By taking a longer-term approach to research and funding longer-term research projects and graduate thesis research. While this has decreased in the US, it is our understanding that in Europe both industry and government have continued to invest in such research efforts. With decreased long-term funding for research and graduate students, it has become more difficult to explore unproven areas and gather the necessary preliminary data in new, high-risk areas.”

Chris Luettgen, associate director, pulp and paper, RBI: “It is urgent to maintain the technical and technological expertise the industry needs to realize its opportunities. This strategic priority cannot be fulfilled without private philanthropy. Companies can endow a professorship of the practice in a Core Technology Area, in order to attract talented industry technologists. (We need) more interaction and two-way-conversation with faculty or leadership at research institutions to influence the direction of the work.”

Mike Roberts, executive director, Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation: “Research, especially that which is more fundamental in nature, follows funding. If industry-wide consortiums such as Agenda 2020 and AF&PA can define research questions and then fund research on a competitive basis, paper and bioresource programs will respond to a request for proposals. Individual companies that may have reduced their internal research and technical support capabilities can look to paper and bioresource programs to build relationships that support investigation into company-specific questions. A long-term technical relationship benefits both the company, through access to technical talent, and the academic program, through understanding the relevance of the industrial marketplace.”

 

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