If it’s not broken…
Sarah Ryther Francom
April 1, 2011
Utah has a long and storied legacy of innovation, forged by industry leaders such as Alan Ashton and Bruce Bastian, co-founders of WordPerfect; Ray Noorda, co-founder of Novell; and Edwin Catmull, president of Pixar Animation Studios. Today that legacy continues, with companies like Skullcandy, Mozy and Mindshare developing pioneering tools and processes.
Utah’s innovative and entrepreneurial spirit remains strong despite the economic slowdown, as evidenced by the state’s many accolades and accomplishments. For example, the University of Utah launched more startup companies based on faculty research than any other university in the country, even beating the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Utah’s record of entrepreneurialism is further solidified by the number of patents filed each year; according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Utah consistently ranks as one of the top patent-producing states per capita.
In this issue of Utah Business, we showcase the latest and greatest homegrown inventions in our coverage of the 2011 Utah Innovation Awards. This annual awards program, which is presented by Stoel Rives and the Utah Technology Council, celebrates the state’s top innovations in categories ranging from biotechnology to clean energy to consumer software, among others. Each award finalist and their innovations are another testament of the state’s robust inventive community. Read about their groundbreaking creations beginning on page 48.
While it’s exciting to see so many innovations coming out of the Beehive State, it’s also a time to reflect on how everyday companies can remain innovative and, therefore, competitive. When times get tough, many companies put innovation on the back burner. Why take a risk when your product or service is working just fine, right? Companies that don’t remain innovative by developing new products or processes that enhance the consumers’ experience will find themselves off of the cutting edge and possibly in a world of hurt.
The topic of innovation is further explored in this issue’s Industry Outlook, which begins on page 65. Local manufacturing leaders—who have been greatly impacted by the economy, soaring costs and international competition—discuss the role innovation plays within their industry. Collin Sorensen, special projects manager for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), points to Apple as an example Utah companies should follow, noting that the high-tech company released its iPad 2 before the buzz of the original iPad died down.
“Innovation really is where we’re going to be able to drive up profitability when we have products that folks are willing to pay a premium for,” said Sorensen during the discussion. “That’s where most of these manufacturers started was on some great innovation … everybody needs to be looking at how can we make our product better, even if it is the number one selling device in the market. How can we continue to keep it in that position? Innovation is going to play a huge role going forward in companies’ success dealing with some of the challenges with increased pricing and overseas competition.”
Companies must be innovative to remain competitive. If your company’s product or service is not broken, consider fixing it anyway.
From the Editor
Sarah Ryther Francom