Technology 6 min read

3 Ways Collaboration is Setting the Industry Standard | |

How do you incentivize quality? There are situations where profit, cost, and quality are in sync, but global collaboration will provide a more consistent product in the next step of our industrial evolution.

Without starting an economic revolution, capital investors and the innovators they support could pivot focus from hyper-competitiveness to high-quality production. In theory, delivering high-quality products to market faster will also drive down prices for producers.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

Scientists and researchers are collaborating more than ever across international, academic, and competitive borders.

This new prevalence of collaboration in recent years is a testament to the expanding global economy and the common goals of researchers from environmental science to public health to new transportation technologies.

Dr. Gill Pratt TRI Executive Technical Advisor (left) Toyota President Akio Toyoda (right) | |

We recently covered the announcement of the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which focuses on leveraging AI and robotics research for its vehicles. The new research facility was created in part as a reaction to the success of Tesla, which surpassed Ford in car sales last year.

Toyota’s research institute is a team composed of researchers from MIT, Stanford and Purdue who are working together to develop a new design for lithium-ion batteries for the cars.

Collaboration is the next step in industry evolution.Click To Tweet

The Objective of Collaboration

What should industries across the board strive for? Getting the best product to market in the fastest time frame possible.

Collaboration is proving to be the best way to do this.

This post-industrialization experiment could be seen as a natural progression from unchecked competition (monopolies and trusts) to refined competition (i.e. regulations that safeguard new businesses).

We are interested in seeing how the next natural evolution could be from refined competition to widespread collaboration.

3 Ways Collaboration Gets the Best Product to the Market Fastest:

1. Freedom and Security of Information

For one, collaboration prevents the holding back of information for fear that someone else will steal an idea. If everyone has a hand in the product coming to market, no one will be negatively affected by its release.

Artist rendering of Tianzhou-1 docking with Tiangong-2 | CMSE |

Today we published an article about China catching up in the space race.

What if instead of designing their own proprietary systems, they could collaborate with the U.S. and private space companies to design the most compatible and efficient spacecraft ever?

That would eliminate any future issues will collaborative space missions and incompatible hardware–something that NASA had to fix in order for Boeing and SpaceX to dock with the International Space Station.

Say these countries and companies did collaborate. How could that alleviate other international problems? If we’re not all trying to have better technological than the other, how could we would together better on other issues and crises?

2. Extra-academic Research

To accomplish a system-wide turn toward a collaborative attitude in research and development, we also need to question incentives in the academic community.

Countless U.S. colleges and universities are driven by the same hyper-competitive urges of corporations in the economic market, as university presses are geared towards publishing updates on academic arms races. Professors struggling for tenure focus on their career when disseminating useful information, rather than making that available for others to use in technological innovation.

The rush to publish makes innovation focused on individual career advancement versus long-term advancement of the field as a whole.

Out from under the umbrella of the academic institution, amateurs can contribute and explore on their own.

In fact, this is already in motion via open source initiatives; Earlier this month, Andrew Grey, an amateur astronomer, discovered a new exoplanet solar system with at least four orbiting bodies.

What’s more, MIT‘s Solve initiative challenged anyone in the world to apply and propose solutions for humanity’s biggest issues in the world.

Through open innovation, the Solve community chooses the best proposals from around the world to combat world challenges like carbon emissions, refugee education, and chronic disease.

Solve initiative teams pitch their proposals to judges in the ECOSOC chamber of the United Nations. | Adam Schultz |

We are beyond the academy now. The Solve initiative is just one testament to that fact.

3. Widespread Collaboration vs. Refined Competition

Refined competition, or as I have called it, regulated competition, uses systems of securing ideas like copyright law and patents to dissuade others from heavy borrowing or outright stealing of other’s ideas. Perhaps, if designing the best quality product were a strong incentive, systems like this would not be needed.

There is a gray area here, of course, as even an open-source development process can reserve rights to the finished product.

Take 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, for example. In 1986, Charles Hull was granted the first patent for a stereolithography apparatus, or SLA, which is a liquid based 3D printing method.

3D Systems, the company co-founded by “Chuck” Hull, produced its first SLA printer in 1992, and enjoyed their control over the SLA chunk of the additive manufacturing market.

When Formlabs, in 2012, brought an affordable SLA 3D printer to market, 3D Systems sued them for patent infringement and now receive an 8% royalty on everything SLA that Formlabs sells.

Carbon3D M1 | |

Since the patent expired, SLA technology has rapidly evolved. Carbon3D, recently purchased by Google, has released three SLA designs that bring 3D prototyping and printing to just about everyone, professional and amateur alike.

But, how much sooner could these advanced 3D printers come available?

Protecting intellectual property is important, but when people keep their ideas close for fear that someone else might steal them (or worse, profit off of them), this robs everyone of innovation, and the opportunity to improve the technology.

But, most importantly for industry, collaboration helps expedite development and production timelines by refining a product more quickly and getting it to market more quickly.

Bottom line? More heads are better than one and “faster, better, cheaper” will be possible if we prioritize long-term collaboration over short-term competition.

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