TechConnect News speaks with Brendan Boyd, Director of Fibers Technology & External Innovation at Eastman Chemical Company
What are technology/solution areas that you have a primary interest in?
Eastman is a pretty diverse company from both the world-class technology platforms we possess and the applications and end-use markets we touch, so there are more than I’ll include here. One of the richest areas is in our functional films product area – here we are looking for technologies that can be integrated into polymeric films (or film stacks) that can significantly improve the functionality of the films we make. We are continually working a multigenerational product plan to improve functionality such as solar control, acoustics or the ability to integrate images in head-up displays, to name just a few. Another area that we are only beginning to explore is incorporating new functionalities into textiles and non-woven products that could bring new functionalities or enhance the sustainability story of our existing products.
What level of commercial maturity do you typically look for in technology partnerships.
Eastman works across the spectrum of technology readiness, but typically the more fundamental research and proof of concept work is done with universities that supports early discovery or occasionally development stage programs. The partnerships we have with other companies usually focus on taking a fairly developed technology where prototypes are available and both sides can see a pathway to the product being scaled up. The lens through which we look at partnerships is what we call our platform principle, meaning areas where we or the partner have a strong product technology and application capability to improve the odds that the collaboration can lead to a commercial success.
Tell us why innovation is important to your company and how this model supports your efforts to find new innovations. Could you describe 1-2 policies or programs your company has in place to support external innovation?
At Eastman, we recognize that there is a diverse array of resources that can improve or accelerate our own growth programs that include universities, national labs, start-ups, venture capital films, suppliers and customers. All these entities create an innovation ecosystem and if you look at some of our successful new product introductions, the teams leveraged multiple parts of an innovation ecosystem during their journey. We formed our external innovation group to improve this connect across groups at Eastman through both running frequent RFPs with our academic partners and working with our specialty business to create technology “want” lists that are used for matching between potential partners and Eastman.
Why work with TechConnect and the National Innovation Summit as a technology prospector? Who are you looking to meet with?
Our corporate sponsorship of the National Innovation Summit allows us to approach technology scouting from multiple angles at a single venue. The co-location of the Summit with the National SBIR / STTR conference allows Eastman to learn about a range of university innovations and early stage companies to assess alignment with our growth opportunities. We are also excited to share our technology needs through the Corporate Needs presentation to participants across the value chain with significant diversity in approaches to complex problems.
Tell us why you participate at TechConnect World? Has the TechConnect innovation matchmaking helped you find new technologies?
Attendance at the 2017 conference allowed Eastman a unique opportunity to meet and exchange needs with not only universities and start-ups, but also with peer companies that were also serving as corporate sponsors for the event.
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