True innovation takes time and is shaped by ubiquitous discoveries that ensure a constant stream of research that leads to transformative solutions. It is a considerable endeavor that requires diversity of thinking, constancy of purpose, the desire to make an impact and the heart to accept failure. It is a high-risk, high-reward exercise.
Take electricity—it’s all around us now, but it was invented by someone producing a hair-size filament, and discovering that it glows when you pass a current through it. The discovery is remarkable, but its move from the lab to the marketplace is what made the electrical light bulb a truly transformative product.
In ExxonMobil’s R&D labs, where synthetic rubber, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and numerous other inventions were born, an idea proceeds through seven stages, from discovery to incubation to development, through to commercialization. With each stage, the chances of success improve. And with each stage, the plan for how to use the innovation becomes more defined.
Innovation isn’t a one-man show. ExxonMobil partners with the most forward-thinking institutions in energy and technology to ensure it is pushing the boundaries of science en masse. When ExxonMobil combines forces with powerhouses like MIT, Volvo and Cyclotron Road, the Silicon Valley incubator, the potential for inventions increases all around, giving everyone involved the chance to expand their innovation footprints. After all, the nature of exploration and research dictates that there are no guarantees—it takes a lot of R&D and a good amount of failure to get to the next big success.
Technology is evolving, and at a record pace. What was not possible yesterday is within reach today. The Energy Futurists series will take you into the labs of innovators around the world to witness cutting-edge scientific research. Learn what the brightest minds in industry and academia are doing in both the near and long term to shape our collective energy future.