Scientific Sense Podcast

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Horizontal innovation

Recent research from MIT shows structural and mechanical guidance from snails and clams improve the designs of robots. This is in a favorable direction of the application of Mathematics, informed by optimal designs from Biology. Vertical specialization has been substantially dampening breakthrough innovation in both engineering and medicine. Synergistic cooperation between mathematicians and biologists could steepen the innovation trajectory in both.

Engineers have been utilizing data in creative ways for centuries. This is a discipline that has invented and utilized much of the analytics, currently rediscovered by scientists. The basic notion that biological systems are too complex to be systematically analyzed using data, kept the discipline back for decades. Now, human genome and big data seem to have broken the shackles.

However, one has to be careful jumping into “big noise,” with presumed success. There will be setbacks and some may declare victory prematurely at the first sign of success. There is significant potential here but it would require professionals with limited horizontal view to trade their egos for a chance of higher success.

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