Not Just a Buzzword: Innovation Has Defined GE’s Approach for 137 Years

Not Just a Buzzword: Innovation Has Defined GE’s Approach for 137 Years

September 28, 2015 at 04:09pm

Ahead of next month’s Nobel Prize announcements, it’s worth noting that to date 15 people from the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Pakistan have been honored with this global award since the first prize was presented in 1901.

These include Nobel Peace Prize winners, laureates in literature, and Nobel Prize winners in chemistry and physics. Recent honorees include Morocco’s Serge Haroche in Physics in 2012, and Egypt’s Ahmed Zewail in Chemistry in 1999.

Haroche was honored for his success in controlling and measuring the ephemeral photon, studying the fundamental interaction between light and matter to help advance the field of quantum physics. Zewail’s work was to use the world’s fastest camera to enable “slow-motion” recording and replay of chemical reactions in discrete moments of time as small as 0.000000000000001 of a second.

Similarly, two scientists working at GE Research labs over the years have been awarded Nobel Prizes for equally pioneering work, one in physics and one in chemistry.

GE engineer Ivar Giaever figured out how to do electron tunneling, a discovery that helped GE build the world’s first full-body magnetic resonance machine (MRI) and earned Giaever a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1973. GE scientist Irving Langmuir won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1932 for his research on lamp filaments. His work allowed GE to take the first images of blood vessels.

This pedigree of Nobel Prizes includes three other Nobel laureates that had worked, or served as research fellows, in GE Research labs.

It’s never certain when or from where the next breakthrough idea will come, but for GE — whose DNA is infused with innovation and invention — it’s vital to foster a wide spectrum of research and study in a range of fields that could result in a future Nobel Prize.

These efforts include GE’s innovation centers in this region, from the Saudi GE Innovation Center, where a patent for a turbo-machinery software solution was recently developed, and the GE Ecomagination Innovation Center in Masdar City, UAE, to the GE Turkey Innovation Center in Gebze,Turkey, and the GE Advanced Technology Research Center at the Qatar Science and Technology Park.

It also includes GE’s renowned global research labs, which employ 3,000 people, including 1,125 PhD s, in centers in Schenectady, New York; San Ramon, California; Shanghai; Rio de Janeiro; Bangalore, and Munich. Globally, the company spends more than $6 billion a year on research.

One of GE Global Research’s newest labs is in San Ramon, California, where the focus is the Industrial Internet. They’ve created a software platform called Predix™ that will enable software to connect big data analytics and connected assets and systems to create “brilliant machines,” efficient systems, and intelligent environments as part of GE’s Industrial Internet initiative across all its businesses.

This work builds on a heritage established when the first GE Research Lab was established early in the last century, in part to defend the company’s primary asset — incandescent lighting — through innovation. In 1908, GE scientist William Coolidge invented the ductile tungsten filament that made the GE incandescent lamp significantly more durable than the original design. The invention secured GE’s technological leadership in the market and epitomized the role of the GE research lab to bring innovation to GE customers.

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