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Dr. Bordogna's Remarks


"Cracking the Creativity Frontier"

Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Deputy Director
Chief Operating Officer
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 Inventor's Dinner.

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 idea.

Tonight we honor today's "intellectual revolutionaries," those who are benevolently transforming society with technology.

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 moving forward.

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 and innovations.

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, and education.

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 and ingenuity.

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 Awards.

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 of microlithography.

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. Congratulations Tom.

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.

Congratulatons Tom.

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.



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