Science in Technology and the Progression of Ideas through Innovation

By Karel Grezl, John Lucas, Nick Ebrill and John Cameron Rodger.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

How does science fit into technology and the progression of ideas through innovation? Science (what and why) and engineering (how) form the knowledge part of technology, alongside the skills and experience parts. Technology, the know-how that allows others to master a technique, underpins all products and services. Ideas are just a mental image in someone’s mind. To take material form through the process of innovation, those ideas have to surmount thresholds of possibility, progress and probability before they become diffused outcomes in their respective marketplaces. These thresholds require, respectively, know-how (technology), leadership and communication. Many other issues go to rate and extent of innovation diffusion. But unless the thresholds are effectively crossed, innovation diffusion is mostly highly unlikely to happen. This new insight into the mechanism of innovation was inspired by The Principle of Hope, philosopher Ernst Bloch’s magnum opus. The experience of Innova Soil Technology Pty Ltd, an Australian soil remediation business, is used as a case study. Science is thus a demonstrably necessary, but entirely insufficient, part of technology and the progression of ideas through innovation.

Keywords: Science, Technology, Ideas, Innovation

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.71-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.029MB).

Dr. Karel Grezl

Program Development Manager, The Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, The University of Newcastle, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

As a mature-aged student, my recently-completed PhD (“Sustainable Regional Development and Innovation”) reflects a working lifetime’s interest in realising ideas, then more recently regional development and most recently sustainability. My undergraduate qualifications in metallurgy and law, and broad-ranging experience in heavy industry, regional development, commercialisation of university intellectual property, private consultancy and university tutoring create the foundations for this inquiry. Successful innovation diffusion mostly does not happen. I think I know why.

John Lucas

Head, Department of Chemical Engineering, The University of Newcastle, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

As Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Newcastle, an academic discipline with strong research interests and links with industry, I lead by example. I am co-founder and Managing Director of Innova Soil Technology Pty Ltd (Innova), a start-up technology commercialisation company, established in 1997. My research interests include contaminated soil remediation, metals processing, energy systems and waste minimisation. Innova has raised several millions of dollars in private capital and government grants, and has designed, had built and deployed commercial-scale plant for contaminated soil remediation elsewhere in Australia. Its mostly graduate workforce includes some of our best students. Its technology and equipment has been successfully demonstrated in a highly regulated environment. Commercial opportunities are being vigorously pursued.

Nick Ebrill

Operations Manager, Innova Soil Technology Ltd, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

As a chemical engineer, I have over 15 years experience in project management, process research and technology development. I have been the Operations Manager for Innova Soil Technology Ltd for the past seven years, with responsibility for the operation of Innova’s DFTD (direct-fired thermal desorption) soil remediation process. I have managed many activities during the development of Innova’s DFTD process, including: plant construction and commissioning, EPA licensing, further process design and development, setting-up a soil treatability laboratory, and conducting trial and commercial remediation projects. Prior to joining Innova, I was a Research Engineer at BHPBilliton, where I was involved in a diverse range of coating, pyro- and hydro-metallurgical, and mining waste treatment projects.

Dr John Cameron Rodger

Director, The Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, The University of Newcastle, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

I have been associated with The Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment from its establishment in 2005 and am its founding Director. I received my PhD from the University of Sydney in 1976. My research has focussed on reproductive biology of marsupials and has made major contributions in the area of male marsupial reproduction and gamete function. My work has also been directed at developing technologies to assist the conservation of endangered marsupials and immunologically-based fertility control for pest species. I held the position of Director of the national Cooperative Research Centre for Conservation and Management of Marsupials from 1995 to 2002. Both during my time with the Centre and the Institute, I have placed strong emphasis on the practical application of research and in working in strong partnership with various stakeholder interests.