Archive for May, 2014

Experimental road lights the way

May 28, 2014 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool videos

This sounds like a great idea with many other applications. What do you think?

Glow in the dark roads sound like science fiction, and unfortunately, at least for the moment they are being banished back into that realm. An experiment in the Netherlands with self illuminating roads has been shelved for the time being, because the lines don’t hold up to high degrees of moisture.

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THINC! Innovation Awards

May 23, 2014 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Events

ThincA lot of thought leaders focus on those who make national headlines for their innovation efforts. Big-name corporations are continually coming up with new ideas and new products, but we also need to look in our own backyards and recognize the incredible ingenuity coming from local and regional companies near to us.

I am fortunate to be a part of what’s known in Northeast Wisconsin as The New North. Here, local innovators are applauded for the game-changing contributions they make. A week ago I was thrilled to see the winners of the first Insight Innovation Awards. Our company, Innovationedge, is a longtime friend and collaborator with Insight Publications, and I include their fantastic news here:

Winners of first annual Insight Innovation Awards announced at THINC! event May 20

Five regional companies and organizations were named winners of the first Insight Innovation Awards at the third annual THINC! event held 3-6 p.m. May 20 at UW-Fox Valley.

Winners by category were: People – Holy Family Memorial, Manitowoc; Process – Breakthrough Fuel, Green Bay; Product – The Solberg Company, Green Bay; and Planet – MEGTEC, De Pere. St. Norbert College received a special award, Integrating Innovation.

Coordinated and hosted by Insight Publications LLC, Appleton, THINC! (Technology & Human Innovation Networking Conference) was designed to shine the spotlight on innovation in the 18-county New North region. A total of 43 companies were nominated for the Insight Innovation Award.

“Seeing the depth and breadth of innovative practices and associated business results across our region was very reassuring and exciting,” one of the judges said. “All the applicants should be proud of their work and the winners that represent the ‘best of the best’ should be especially pleased in being recognized as leading the region in innovation.”

TEC (The Executive Committee) sponsored the keynote speaker, Efrem Z. Stringfellow, Microsoft Vice President, Central U.S. Region. Other program sponsors were WMEP, Wipfli, Tushaus, Miron and Ark Media Group. First Business Bank and New North, Inc., sponsored the networking reception.


Holy Family Memorial

Twelve years ago, Holy Family Memorial made a commitment to radical change, when the health-care organization launched an initiative to move from a “sick care” to a “wellness” focus, emphasizing patient safety, quality and cost containment. The changes they made resulted not only in measurable, positive patient outcomes and employee job satisfaction but also saved an average of more than $4.3 million annually.

The organization has recently begun to help other entities in its community begin their own journey toward Lean, including the city of Manitowoc.

Our judges, who awarded Holy Family with the Insight Innovation Award in the “People” category, were impressed by the depth in which this organization engaged its 1,200 employees with incremental improvement and “Blue Ocean strategy” as they embraced an internal mantra of “Inspired Caring.”


Breakthrough Fuel

Breakthrough Fuel, winner in the “Process” category, was founded on a single innovative idea: How to leverage technology and information to help shippers reduce their energy cost, consumption and emissions.

Judges were impressed that the company, which employs 43 people, has made innovation a core part of its business with a commitment to release a new, innovative solution to the market within every 14 months. Each year, it invests nearly 10 percent of its revenue and time into innovative projects, research and development.

Breakthrough Fuel created a business model that allows its clients (large shipping organizations) to align reimbursement for fuel to the actual cost that is paid for that fuel by their transportation partners. It has been awarded two patents and has others pending for the technology that enables it to serve its clients. In a nutshell, it eliminates the distortion created by traditional fuel surcharge programs, and with its technology helps its clients reduce the cost, consumption and emissions in their supply chain. The resulting transparency has created stronger partnerships, reduced waste and led to new fact-based approaches to problem solving.


The Solberg Company

The Solberg Company, recognized globally for its environmentally-friendly firefighting foam concentrates and foam suppression systems hardware used in industries ranging from aerospace and aviation to petrochemical and utilities, caught the eye of the judges for a product it introduced one year ago.

Called RE-HEALING Foam, the high-performance, environmentally-friendly foam concentrate is the first significant innovation in firefighting foam since the 1960s, when synthetic-based foam concentrates replaced foams based of animal proteins. Synthetic products have since proven harmful to the environment and are under an EPA 2015 Stewardship Program to change their chemical compositions.

Solberg’s RE-HEALING impressed the judges, who named it the Insight Innovation Award in the Category, “Product,” because it has allowed the company to achieve full EPA compliance before a 2015 deadline – something its competitors have not yet claimed.  As a stand-alone division of Amerex Corporation, Solberg employs 34 globally, including 14 in Green Bay.


MEGTEC Systems

A global manufacturer of environmental solutions and engineered product, MEGTEC Systems employs 600 people worldwide, including about half in De Pere.

Although the company got its start in the paper and printing markets more than 45 years ago, it has transformed into a sustainability-focused company providing capital equipment solutions for air pollution abatement, sustainable industrial processes and end products linked to clean technologies.

The judges were impressed that MEGTEC was able to take its core competencies in drying and air pollution control to expand its market focus and develop innovative solutions for air pollution control equipment and machinery.

Today, the company produces lithium-ion battery electrode materials for electric cars, wind and solar energy storage, membranes for water purification, and other advanced materials. Its R&D pilot facility in De Pere is one of only several in the world that allows customers to test and develop products on production-size equipment for energy storage applications. It has generated more than $60 million in additional revenue in the past six years in this new business segment.


St. Norbert College

Contest judges created a special award to recognize the organization-wide commitment St. Norbert College has made to folding big ideas into everything it does: Integrating Innovation.

In 2013, St. Norbert President Tom Kunkel invited a member of his cabinet to take on the challenge of creating a team to further foster an innovative culture at the college and identify strategic opportunities. “The Big Ideas Group” was charged with soliciting forward-thinking ideas. Everyone – from students and faculty to alumni, trustees and Norbertines – was asked to submit ideas. In less than 90 days, 250 ideas flooded in. From these, five clusters of innovation were chosen; the best will be incorporated into the Strategic Plan for the college.

All of this is happening within the backdrop of major changes and enhancements at the college. Within the last five years, more than $100 million in construction has taken place, the Medical College of Wisconsin will have a campus at St. Norbert and the Donald Schneider School of Business and MBA program was recently announced.


Nominees were invited to apply for the awards. An independent panel of judges narrowed applicants to 15 finalists. They scored each finalist based on four criteria:

1) How does the innovation differentiate the applicant?

2) What positive, tangible results came out of the innovation?

3) Is the innovation sustainable?

4) How did the innovation help the applicant’s customers?

Besides the winners, finalists were: Appleton Group, LLC, Appleton; Aver Informatics, Inc., Green Bay; Bay Tek Games, Pulaski; EDCi (Electroline Data Communications Inc.), Appleton; Menasha Corporation, Neenah; Omni Resources, Inc., Appleton; Orion Energy Systems, Manitowoc; Paper Transport, Inc., Green Bay; Séura, Green Bay; and Xensr, Green Bay.

This smartphone will self destruct

May 18, 2014 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool Inventions and gadgets

Have you ever lost your phone? I have, and that uneasy feeling doesn’t come from losing my shopping apps – it comes from losing information that can put our finances and our identities at risk.  For our safety and security, we might look to this idea to keep our information safe.

The Californian Senate has approved a revised version of the so-called kill switch bill, which requires all smartphones sold in the state to have anti-theft software installed. The controversial bill was rejected at the end of April, and was subsequently altered to make it more acceptable to manufacturers and networks. Apparently, key changes included a six month extension to the deadline for compliance, and tablets aren’t included in the rules.

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A cool drink!

May 16, 2014 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool videos

A book you can drink safely from? Yes!

Lack of access to clean water is a massive global problem, especially because many of those affected end up drinking unsafe water and don’t realize it’s bad for them. The University of Virginia has previously made efforts to help with its PureMadi filter, which can be made from raw materials by the communities that use them. Now researchers at the institution are involved in the creation of The Drinkable Book, a manual that contains details of how to avoid unsafe water, with pages that can also be used to kill waterborne diseases.

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3D-printed makeup?

May 13, 2014 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool Inventions and gadgets

We’ve already seen 3D printing enable consumers to create their own jewelry courtesy of startups such as Zazzy in the Netherlands. But what about cosmetics? Mink is a 3D printer that lets anyone print their own makeup by choosing a color from their computer.


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An invention and an inspiring story of Sam Berns

May 10, 2014 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool videos
Sam Berns

Sam Berns

I recently caught a Ted Talks presentation featuring 17-year-old Sam Berns, a young man with a terrible and rare disease. But he didn’t let his debilitating situation define his short life.

Sam died a few months ago, but his incredible journey has inspired millions around the world.

I share this on my blog because one of Sam’s challenges was something many young people take for granted: strength.

Sam didn’t have the strength he needed to lift his band instrument so that he could march in line with his friends. But thanks to some innovative engineers who helped him, Sam was able to make one of his dreams come true.

Check this out and enjoy what you can do.

Billboards reduce pollution

Here is a great idea that we’ve talked about before. More and more innovation companies around the world are working to curb the amount of air pollution – smog – that expose people to harmful toxins that can lead to lung disease.

A massive billboard has been created by  Lima, Peru–based engineering college UTEC. Last year, the college focused on solving Lima’s rainfall shortage, and came up with a billboard that creates water by sucking it from the city’s super-humid air.  Here’s what this technology can do:

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Food industry faces challenges as climate changes

Could the weather and the climate cause the Food and Beverage industry to need to adjust?  It already has. Around the globe, 2 billion people suffer from zinc and iron deficiencies, equaling about 63 million life-years annually, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health. Zinc deficiency can lead to an increase in infectious diseases because of its effect on the immune system, and anemia caused by low iron levels contributes to 20 percent of maternal deaths, according to the World Health Organization:

Just last year, the world crossed the dubious threshold of 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. By using CO2 jets placed around test plots, the study created growing conditions that approximate a future in which those levels creep upward of 500 parts per million. The grains and legumes grown in this environment had anywhere between 5 and 10 percent less iron, zinc, and protein too. The increase in nutritional deficiencies these drops could cause “represents the most significant health threat ever shown to be associated with climate change,” according to a Harvard press release.

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