"Cracking the Creativity Frontier"
Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Chief Operating Officer
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Rochester Institute of Technology Inventor's Dinner
April 15, 2002
Good evening. Thank you Dr. Simone for that kind introduction.
I've had an uplifting experience here today, and I
am delighted to be here with you this evening to celebrate
Rochester Institute of Technology's spirited achievements
in creativity and technology at your 2nd
Our nation was conceived in revolution - it is part
of our heritage. Our nation's revolution was in large
part an intellectual one, given the considerable talents
of our founders to create a nation from a benevolent
Tonight we honor today's "intellectual revolutionaries,"
those who are benevolently transforming society with
I have titled my brief remarks "Cracking the Creativity
Frontier" because that is what societal progress and
RIT are all about. Nicholas Valery wrote in the Economist,
"Innovators break all the rules. Trust Them." I trust
the institutional vision of RIT - putting faith in
its barrier-breaking faculty is a capital idea.
New ideas, like all revolutions, alter the fabric of
society. Innovators, those who apply knowledge to
tasks that are new and different, keep us fresh and
Americans have always loved their inventors - technological
creations are both tools and artistic expressions
for our society.
It should be no surprise to us here that Life
magazine cited Thomas Alva Edison as the peak achiever
in the last millennium. This non-stop inventor beat
out queens and kings, scientists and mathematicians,
writers and artists in the Life magazine competition.
The "Wizard of Menlo Park" was number one in a list
of a hundred leaders and thinkers that included Elisabeth
I, Sulleyman the Magnificent, Galileo, Mary Wollstonecraft,
Pablo Picasso, Helen Keller, and Albert Einstein.
Born in 1847, Edison radically changed global society
by transforming electricity from a novelty to a household
and commercial necessity with his clever work leading
to the incandescent light bulb and many other things.
Underlying his stellar record of over a thousand patents
is his adage: "Genius is one percent inspiration and
99 percent perspiration."
In both science and engineering, there is a lot of
perspiration in the carry-through, but the spark comes
from the inspiration. Inspiration is that chaotic
and complex moment where past and present knowledge
combine to synthesize an idea that stands on the edge
of the future.
In science, which investigates what nature has created,
"chaotic and complex moments" mean breaking into the
secrets of the universe to unlock the basic knowledge
of our world and ourselves. Engineering and technology
complement science by creating what nature has not,
and by manipulating natural processes with great care
to satisfy societal need.
Both disciplines have their "Eureka! Moments" where
small steps or thoughts lead to colossal insights
However, inspiration and innovation are not just free
floating processes. They are clearly linked to other
partners, those of industry and society. Sparks of
inspiration are forged into inventions through integration
of research, development, industrial applications,
RIT's First in Class Initiative and its Upstate Alliance
for Innovation, proudly funded by NSF, through its
merit process aim to unite local governments, universities,
and industries. The goal is to fracture traditional
barriers and create novel partnerships by using cutting
edge research to generate an economic and technological
explosion in Upstate New York. At NSF we say: "The
whole is greater than the sum of the partners." This
is certainly true for RIT, which has primed itself
to be on the edge of the future.
Physicist and science writer Mitch Waldrop, in his
book Complexity, writes about "the edge of
chaos ... where the components of a system never quite
lock into place, and yet never quite dissolve into
turbulence either... The edge of chaos is where new
ideas and innovative genotypes are forever nibbling
away at the edges of the status quo..."
This territory is 'a space of opportunity,' a place
to make a marriage of unlike partners or disparate
ideas. The most fertile opportunities can occur in
these "foggy crossings" where sparks fly and the knowledge
in one field answers questions in another.
The awareness of 'complexity' makes us nimble and opportunistic
seekers not only in our science and engineering knowledge,
but also in our educational and industrial institutions.
Operating on the edge of chaos allows individuals to
figure out new combinations, new outlets for imagination
RIT researchers, who tonight are receiving awards,
have cracked the creativity frontier. It gives me
great honor to now present the awards.
The first awards that I will present are new to RIT
this year. The Rochester Institute of Technology has
embarked on a program to honor the innovation and
creativity of its researchers with IP Productivity
These are given to individuals with three or more invention
disclosures. As we all know, an Invention Disclosure
begins the institutional journey of an invention to
patenting and commercial development. An invention
disclosure is made when something new and useful has
been conceived or developed.
Tonight's first IP Productivity Awards are given to
researchers at the Center for Imaging Science in the
College of Science.
Noboru Ohta, Xerox Professor at the Center for Imaging
Science and his colleague Mitchell Rosen, Senior Color
Scientist, are collaborators and joint inventors on
three disclosures. Their work is in the field of Imaging
Spectrometry Methods and Camera Spectral Sensitivities.
RIT's next award is being given to Thomas Gennett,
Professor of Chemistry in the College of Science.
He has made seven invention disclosures and is the
inventor of carbon nanotubes for hydrogen storage.
Bruce Smith, Associate Dean and Intel Professor of
Microelectronics Engineering in the Kate Gleason College
of Engineering is our next awardee. He has submitted
six invention disclosures from his work in the field
Michael Potter, Distinguished Researcher in the Kate
Gleason College of Engineering, is receiving his award
for technological achievements that resulted in an
outstanding performance of twelve invention disclosures.
Mike is a prolific inventor in the field of micro
electro mechanical systems, with a focus on micro
fluidics, electrostatic bonding, and devices. He has
also been a participant in the First in Class initiative.
Ryne Raffaelle, Professor of Physics in the College
of Science, is receiving his IP Productivity Award
for his four invention disclosures in the area of
nanotechnology and its application to micropower devices.
Let us all congratulate these six individuals whose
creativity and innovation will produce the tools for
the 21st century.
As we all know, it is hoped that each invention disclosure
will evolve into a patent, which is a grant of property
rights by the government. And that transition has
been achieved by our next awardee.
I have the pleasure of presenting RIT's Patent Plaque
to Professor Bruce Smith, a faculty member in the
Microelectronics Department and Associate Dean of
the Kate Gleason College of Engineering. Bruce has
a long history of innovation in the field of microlithography.
He was the recipient of the first RIT Creator's Award.
On October 31 of last year, the US Patent Office issued
him a patent for "An attenuated phase shift mask and
a method for making the mask." This is the second
patent to be received by Bruce while at RIT.
While Bruce is here at the podium to receive this Patent
Plaque, I want to also congratulate him for a third
patent. Just last week, on April 9, Bruce received
notice that he was awarded a patent for his latest
invention: "Masks for use in optical lithography below
180 nm." A Patent Plaque for this latest work will
be awarded at the next Inventor's Dinner.
Bruce - you are just non-stop at standing at the edge
of chaos and dreaming up new ideas! Congratulations.
It now gives me immense pleasure to present RIT's 2nd
Creator's Award to Dr. Thomas Gennett, a Professor
of Chemistry, who is using nanotechnolgy to revolutionize
society with clean-burning fuels. Tom was a co-inventor
with scientists from the National Renewable Energy
Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, on innovations that
have lead to these three patents:
- Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes
- Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes for Hydrogen Storage
or Superbundle Formation
- Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes for metal-hydride
Storage or Superbundle Formation
We can be sure that intellectual sparks flew to create
these inventions that have the potential for a new
paradigm and long-term benefits for society.
What are these carbon nanotubes? They are almost magical
in their ability to remove impurities and noxious
gases from hydrogen and then store the hydrogen for
use in fuel cells. Their ultimate role will be as
a new mechanism to power vehicles, one that will replace
petrochemicals. Hydrogen is renewable, cheap, and
pollution free, yielding water as the main by-product.
To ensure future research opportunity for nano-carbon
tubes, Tom and colleague Ryne Raffaelle recently unveiled
their new Nanopower Research Lab. This "First in Class
Initiative" creates a space for students, faculty,
and industry to work in unison at the frontiers of
nanotechnology. Tom is to be congratulated not only
for his inventions but also for his foresight in laying
this foundation for future learning and innovation.
And now, as I have done all the talking, I would like
to give Tom a chance to say a few words.
Tonight we've had a glimpse of the extent of talent
at the Rochester Institute of Technology. These researchers
represent an engine of innovation and creative activity.
I have much exciting news to take back to NSF and
share with my colleagues. We will all watch you with
great interest and expectation.
And now, as I have done all the talking, I would like
to give Tom a chance to say a few words.
As I turn back the podium to Dr. Simone, let me again
congratulate all the awardees and wish you future
success in your creative endeavors. It has been an
honor for me to participate in this program. RIT is
an outstanding, institution, doing good as well as
doing well. Stay true to your vision and capitalize
on your strengths. The future is yours.