Zeke applied his expertise in advanced robotics to solve a long-standing food science challenge: holding food ingredients together without sugary glue.
Who he is:
Ezekiel “Zeke” Kruglick, PhD, has spent his life inventing things that push the boundaries of what’s possible, from his Jet Propulsion Laboratory work that earned him a NASA Space Act Award, to his work with The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that he can’t talk much about, and on to his consulting work across multiple industries. He stopped counting his number of patents after 300, but he has been informed he is sitting between 800 and 1000 today, making him one of the world’s most prolific active inventors. He received his doctorate in electrical engineering computer science from University of California, Berkeley and before founding technical consulting firm Ardent Research, he spent nine years as an idea generator and gatherer for DARPA–the Pentagon-funded think tank that spawned the internet, GPS, and autonomous vehicles.
Zeke is known through his consultancy work as a technical guru. His invention of a process for making healthy snack bars using advanced robotics is one example of why. Zeke brings cutting edge technical expertise from different fields to open up new possibilities for companies, particularly those in industries slow to adopt emerging technologies. Many companies seek him out for adopting or inventing new technologies or rationalizing and optimizing existing technology. More and more, he puts skin in the game by investing in a company and serving at the advisory level. For instance, he rang the NASDAQ bell with Image Sensing Systems, in whom he invested his own capital and then came on board to help advance their technology past the state of the art.
In his words:
“It’s really interesting to find an industry where the technology might be decades old, and then to be able to go into that industry and push it a bit beyond the current state of the art by bringing in a few ideas.”
Meat quality is all about the process. Working to solve the problem of unappealing color in perfectly good meat for Meat and Livestock Australia, Dr. Manion realized that the real problem—and its solution—lay in the process of preparing the animal for slaughter. Stress triggers a hormonal response that changes the color of cow meat to an unappetizing grayish tint. The solution lay in keeping the cows stress-free, as opposed to the stated request of finding additives or post-processing solutions that would change the color of meat after-the-fact.
Who he is:
Growing up between Australia and the USA, Dr. Manion’s journey to becoming a prolific inventor, invention consultant, and entrepreneur began unassumingly on the standard academic track. First, he obtained a doctorate in physiology and biophysics. Then he enrolled in the Technology Management MBA program at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, whereupon he ventured onto the unbeaten path of technology commercialization. Studying intellectual property, patenting, and commercialization strategy revealed to him a thrilling new dimension of science and technology.
In his words:
“Intractable problems are often intractable because you have the industry experts trying to solve them,” said Michael Manion, PhD, founder of Keon Research. “When you’re an industry expert you can’t have crazy ideas: you need the solution, the best idea in one go, not 10 things that may or may not work. Invention is about being prolific and working to find the best solution, rather than being married to one idea.”
“The trick to solving problems is getting together lots of people from different backgrounds,” said Dr. Manion, emphasizing the vital skill of first defining a problem properly. “The ability to understand a problem is not unique to an industry expert. They know all the ways something won’t work, but not necessarily how something might work outside its domain, whether that’s chemistry or physics or mechanical engineering. They approach problems as a technologist, not a problem solver. This diversity is far more powerful than what anyone expert can provide.”
“There’s no degree program offered in inventing. I wish there was. There should be. As scientists, we’re taught to think as technologists, which is compartmentalized and focused purely on the technology itself. But then you learn that in reality there are more factors to invention than just the technology.”
Read more about Mike Manion and his team at Keon Research:
Who he is and what he’s known for:
Adam is known for deploying his Swiss Army Knife-like skillset in various capacities and with excellent quality. As a 22-year-old mechanical engineer, he was doing structural engineering work building submarines for the Australian navy. He approached things differently from his colleagues. When they needed something odd and newly built from scratch, Adam was always the guy.
Eventually, Adam saw how studying industrial design would let him unite his interests and solve problems with new ideas and an aesthetic sense. It combined the engineering expertise of how to make things work, with the underpinning physics of how things fundamentally work. But he especially loved the artistic side to industrial design, which brought it all together. He credits industrial design for instilling the versatility requisite for inventing prolifically, from conceptualization to prototyping.
In his words:
“I didn’t really want to work for somebody, even at a young age. I never liked the constraints of being in a company as just sort of a company man… I was always the guy who pointed out, ‘Why are you doing this like that?’ They would deal with something without dealing with the underlying cause. I would lob in some comment that would sort of recalibrate the conversation in the meeting to try to deal with fundamental reasons. I like working with people, but I like the idea of being able to set my own path.”
“The idea is not to generate rubbish on a whim, it’s to solve a problem properly for a company,” he said. “I treat my involvement as a consultancy job, which is to say I take it seriously.”
Chemist, Brenden Carlson, PhD, is helping reinvent the gummy. Directing the Seattle Gummy Company’s formulations, he’s invented whole new sugar compounds along the way to developing healthy and tasty fitness gummies, energy gummies, multi-vitamin gummies, and even the world’s first planned line of pharmaceutical gummies–which promise to boost efficacy and patient compliance with medications.
Who he is:
Dr. Carlson’s career trajectory didn’t start with applied chemistry in food, health or medicine—but in aeronautics and military applications. He formally began charting his path to becoming, as his colleagues call him, the “walking encyclopedia of polymer chemistry” when he and his mentor, Professor Martin Gouterman at UW, patented a polymer for paints and coatings that would become the standard method of atmospheric pressure testing for new airplanes. It remains the industry standard, offering superior accuracy at a far cheaper cost than the previous method, which required $100,000 “pressure taps” drilled into aircraft. Most planes in the air today have been tested with Dr. Carlson’s inventions—which he developed as an undergrad at the University of Washington.
In his words:
“I have an extensive sugar background, but applying it to gummies and consumer products, in general, was a huge change and an appealing challenge. Also, it’s sort of cool to be playing with food. With paints and coatings you have… all these really harsh chemicals to worry about.”
Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS). Particle accelerators had been long used to look backward in time, but Dr. Arjomand was the first person to consider how they could be used to trace an element’s path going forward. His breakthrough folic acid study led to whole new avenues of research and AMS applications, opening fundamental insights into nutrition and drug kinetics. His research has had a tremendous public health impact, including helping to change the US food fortification policy that has virtually ended spina bifida in the US, a potentially severe spinal birth defect that limits movement and behavior.
Who he is:
Before his Ph.D.—and before making life-saving discoveries in nutritional science, or helping pioneer the genomics revolution, or directing innovation and scientific affairs for Bill Gates’ Global Good Fund–a young Ali Arjomand would eagerly await his father’s return to Iran with a suitcase full of technological curiosities. That suitcase represented a window to the world through which Ali would ultimately map new frontiers in science, business, and innovation along a winding journey from Iran to London to Silicon Valley and Seattle.
Where his childhood had featured a big playroom with a soldering iron, University California, Davis had an even bigger room with an absolutely massive 15-ton research tool: a particle accelerator. It was being used for high energy physics by the United States Department of Energy (DOE), but Ali saw its potential for a clinical health and nutrition study. It took some solid negotiating skills to get his university and the DOE to agree to a bold cross-disciplinary application never before done. This was an early and essential example of the importance of communication for an innovator to advance his best ideas.
In his words:
“People at that time had used the particle accelerator to look backward in time for radiocarbon dating of artifacts, but nobody had used it going forward–to actually follow and trace the molecules in a living human–and it was kind of a big deal,” said Ali, who remains an expert in AMS and uses it for his drug study work. “Back then we didn’t know how much folic acid was required to support healthy fetal development, and since this study’s results were published the US food policy has changed. You see folic acid fortification in flour and elsewhere in the food system and that’s to avoid a birth defect called spina bifida. I helped verify some population studies, validated what was coming from them.”
Invented dissolvable tattoo needles made from corn starch for livestock in a new smart tattooing technology.
Who he is:
Since graduating university in 2011, Millar has forged his own path in innovation, obtaining 21 patents (seven of which have been granted so far) while also developing a strong reputation as a prototyping whiz on major innovation projects. Millar’s journey to becoming a full-time inventor began with his upbringing on his family farm in rural Australia. The farm offered lots of equipment to tinker with and plenty of space to dream big and play hard. It gave him a creative drive to go with a passion for science that led him to a bachelor’s in materials science and engineering and physical metallurgy at University New South Wales.
In his words:
“Generalists like myself build up a solid base of knowledge of physical properties and techniques used across multiple industries and sciences and when given a problem to solve, you give yourself a quick crash course in that problem’s field. While learning about it, you look for places you can implement the principles and techniques and designs you know from other fields in any way you can, in any combination. There’s always something that can be done.”
Ice911: Slowing polar ice melt with the layering of silica microspheres that reflect solar energy.
Who she is:
Over four decades, Dr. Field has left her mark as a woman on innovation. Along the way to authoring 54 patents and founding Ice911 and SmallTech Consulting, whose staff in 2006 was originally–and not accidentally–almost all women (and one stay-at-home Dad), she’s advanced technology across many fields: from the oil industry and micro-electromechanical systems, to inkjet printers and medical devices, to planet-saving polar ice-melt retardants. And for a decade she has inspired her graduate and undergraduate students at Stanford in her Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Climate Change course to make similarly positive impacts on the world.
After obtaining her undergraduate and graduate degrees in merely four years from MIT, Dr. Field found an R&D opening with Chevron working in catalysis. The interdisciplinary nature of her work was appealing. While there she worked on various projects including getting the lead out of gasoline, creating a safer lab for technicians and engineers making test batches of catalysts for R&D work, and on two separate projects where she authored patents that would ultimately have billion-dollar industry impacts. She left Chevron and entered an entirely new field for her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, where she completed her doctoral thesis on fluid actuation of silicon micromachined gears and rotors.
In her own words:
“I’m having adventures I never would have dreamed of as a young woman. At Ice911, we are working in the Arctic, in Barrow Alaska, to test out the reflective sand technology to preserve and restore ice. As part of that, I learned to drive a snowmobile from an Inupiat Eskimo we work with on our testing. I have walked on the frozen Arctic ocean, have worked at times in seemingly endless twilight, have seen a polar bear and the aurora borealis, and have met the most incredible people close to home and all over the world. You never know what life will throw at you when you’re doing work like this, aimed at saving lives today and saving the future for our kids.”
Who she is:
With over 50 U.S. patents and patent applications to her credit, one would think Dr. Sjong took to inventing as though to a mystical calling. The opposite is true. She’d been approached about doing invention work by Xinova for some time, but it took a lull in her consulting work to muscle past her dislike of the patent world and the very word, “Inventor” (she prefers, “Innovator”) to give it a shot.
In her words:
“Many who are inventors would emphasize elegant approaches and aspirational tendencies. I’m more of an anteater that claws its way at a log or anthill, sticks its long snout deep inside, slurps up thousands of ants and spits out a few solutions. I claw at subjects like an anteater I try not to destroy the anthill but I don’t get to what I need until after really tearing into it.”
“I work across a lot of industries so the same skills that I brought to consulting I brought to inventing,” she said, noting that she consults in fields from materials science to chemistry, for startups and for Fortune 500 companies. “I think what I realized was I defined inventing in a different way that fit my skills. I’m a researcher at heart. I love to read and ask questions.”
And that’s how she approaches problems: as a researcher and a consultant. But inventing provides freedom from strict consultancy deadlines to obsessively pursue ideas. That was a game-changer. With time to read and ask questions and get acquainted with new material, and to dive down rabbit holes, she could let the creative process percolate… and then filter the ideas through her consulting expertise.
“I strongly believe there are two parts to invention. Inventors need to know how to play with ideas and with concepts–they need to be comfortable playing with hypotheticals. That’s part one. But part two is taking off your inventing goggles. That’s when you have to be quite critical of your ideas and remember to never fall in love with your ideas too much. Loving your ideas too much is the bane of invention. You’ve got to kill some ideas off and focus on the ones with the most potential.”
Who he is:
Working at the interface between the physical and electronic world, Dr. Margalit focuses on sources and applications of sound, light, vibration , and heat, as well as numerous types of sensors and their underpinning algorithms. He braids his broad technical background into a systematic approach to problem-solvingnd a hacker mentality. He has founded four companies and has been involved in the formation of countless others, and he has over 100 granted and pending patents. His achievements are driven by a passion for innovation that shines through his conversations and lectures.
An active figure in Israel’s vibrant startup scene, Moti Margalit, PhD used to think of himself solely as an entrepreneur. He was (and remains) highly skilled at launching technical concepts into viable businesses. But a chance encounter with Xinova nearly a decade ago opened his eyes to something else: an emerging market for Big Ideas, and for innovators who can generate them in a systematic manner.
In his words:
“I always thought that to breathe life into my inventions I have to be an entrepreneur,” said Dr. Margalit, who received his PhD in electrical engineering from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and was a visiting researcher at MIT. “However, I later realized Xinova provides an alternative path enabling me to work in parallel on multiple topics. A luxury, which entrepreneurs rarely have.”
Dr. Ur in 1993, while completing his Ph.D., patented a system for transcribing invisible information signatures onto the printed page via dot-matrix printing. That innovation contained wide commercial applications worth millions. It helped propel him along the track to Master Inventor at IBM, where he would ultimately obtain 70 patents and train five other IBM Master Inventors.
Who he is:
Dr. Ur is the rare breed of prolific inventor who has successfully spanned the traditional R&D model and open innovation. With a CV extending from Master Inventor at IBM to innovation consultancy founder and professor, Dr. Ur has achieved unique inventive success. Consequently, he has acquired unique insights into what makes a great invention, and how to follow through with its protection and commercialization.
In his words:
“When I see a new technology, I try to figure out why it’s really different from what I’ve seen before and how it could be used to connect to new things in really different ways. I am a generalist. I learn about the world and try to improve it.”
“Most people see a problem as just a problem, but obviously for an inventor, it needs to be seen as an opportunity. Most problems have an obviously good solution. This is what kills invention. Most people can’t get around the fact that it is a good solution. But if you have a good problem and a good solution, you don’t think of a better solution. That is very problematic for most people. Most problems have a good solution but you need to go further to make something that is valuable, something that can be sold. Smart people in the world will find the obvious solution and stop there because the obvious solution is usually a good enough solution. But you must ask yourself: What is a better solution?”
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