Sigma Xi Innovation

Sigma Xi

Here is a proposal I have for Sigma Xi. We form a separate profit-seeking corporation with the dues-paying members as shareholders. Call it something like Sigma Xi Innovation (SXI). The mission of SXI would be to provide guidance to its shareholders in the development of ideas from the STEM group of disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to successful commercial products and services. SXI would provide, through its qualified experts/shareholders, staff, and outside-contracted persons — all the necessary counsel to complete the transition from nascent idea to going concern.

Precedent exists for the kind of firm like the SXI I envision. It is right here near to me in Oslo. Originally called Birkeland Innovasjon, it is now called Inven2. Kristian Birkeland was a celebrated Norwegian scientist who first seriously investigated the Northern Lights, and later founded Norsk Hydro, the hydroelectric power company, now merged with StatOil, the operator of Norway’s offshore oil and gas drilling platforms. (Birkeland appears on the Norwegian kr200 note.) Go to the site of Inven2 to see exactly what they do. You may also look at the related Oslo Innovation Center and venture capital firm Kistefos to see what an integrated approach to innovation can do. The facilities of Oslo Innovation Center are well known to me, and are right across the tube train tracks from the Blindern Campus of the University of Oslo, where my office is. My idea is similar to Inven2, except that SXI would concentrate in the STEM disciplines for the specific benefits of its shareholders.

Finally, since the shareholders of SXI would have the mission of Sigma Xi dear to their hearts, they might see fit to make corporate donations to Sigma Xi, much as any firm would make a contribution to a not-for-profit entity. The fact that the directors of both organizations could have some of the same persons is simply a disclosure item, I believe, and would not invalidate the respective missions or arrangements.

A side effect, and not one to be dismissed lightly, would be the aggressive creation of new jobs in the world economies. It is widely understood that most job creations takes place in entrepreneurial firms, whereas large organizations look for way to pare the employee rolls as technology advances. As well, the SXI mission would provide a business model alternative to scientists and engineers only seeking jobs in universities and government or private research institutions. More and more, as you are well aware, the best science and engineering takes place in private industry, away from the academy and subsidized think tanks. SXI would give individuals so disposed a viable pathway to successful futures.

Please comment Sigma Xi members, and all other interested readers. This is a way, I believe, that Sigma Xi could get much more active in the promotion and development of the STEM disciplines, redefine itself in a positive way, and guarantee its future.

4 thoughts on “Sigma Xi Innovation

  1. John Kelley

    I think that the concept of SXI has merit and deserves further and wider discussion. when you consider the vast expertise present in the international membership of Sigma XI it could serve, if properly managed, as the intellectual product line of an entrepreneurial venture. One avenue that might help focus more clearly on “What business are we in?” would be to proceed with the development of a business plan.

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  2. Bill Klemm

    This sounds like a great idea. This Research Gate forum could help bring together innovators with needed colleagues. Sigma Xi might want to create a parallel mechanism for linking its commercial innovator members with each other and with venture capitalists.

    This idea seems tailor made for launching a new era of Sigma Xi service to its members.

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  3. Christine Cutucache

    Hi Paul,

    I certainly support your suggestion for a SigmaXi entity (or even an independent entity) to provide a more streamline and supportive approach for taking ideas and translating them. Several major hiccups with the current methods include: lack of funding (of course), lack of collaboration across disciplines and professions (i.e., between physicians and scientists), and the stifling of nascent ideas by administrators to simply continue with “how we’ve always done things.” SigmaXi certainly excels and bringing researches from many different disciplines together to collaborate and learn from one another and this has led to great success. However, you’re correct, the financial end is lacking. I’ve actually been developing a company to handle this precise issue and have been looking for others who are interested in speeding the translation of science. I was delighted to see your post. I’m also glad that SigmaXi is taking action in this area. If I can be of any help, please feel free to contact me.

    Respectfully,

    Christine Gilling

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  4. Tapio Ala-Nissilä

    This is a great idea and I wholeheartedly support it. It would be great to be involved in something like this. I think such an organization could also serve as a vehicle to promote scientific information in decision-making, in particular when technology issues are concerned.

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