Stewart Collie

Stewart Collie took us through his journey of innovation, textiles and “Woolly Thinking”. Now working as a Science Team Leader at AgResearch, Stuart has forged a path as a leading expert on wool and its development as versatile and smart textile.

From bio-compatible textiles to electrically conductive polymers and working withThree Over Seven’s ‘WoolRunners’ he showed us how vital science and research is to those wanting to stay ahead of the game. Now being a part of a large Crown Research Institute (CRI), he highlighted how important it was to encourage innovation in CRI’s with schemes like their ‘Curiosity Fund,’ which allows money for scientists to develop their own experimental ideas and methods. The Curiosity Fund took simple project proposals and granted 20 projects a year with some becoming larger projects downstream.

After having the chance to work with a number of start-up companies such as softswitch (an Electronic Textile that Steve Jobs and Jake Burton put into a Burton Snowboard Jacket to control an iPod). He noted how important sound science and research can be to your success, providing the rigor that was so important over time.

He noted that many scientists can be adverse to commercialisation and joining start-ups, but it’s this exposure, mixed with fear of the unknown, that can become a great building block in understanding what it takes to commercialise research. He felt that Design and Science have much to learn from each other, and for innovation to succeed, you must understand where your product has come from, and whom it is going to.

Takeaway Points

  • The role of design can enhance science and technology.
  • Capture and encourage innovation in large organisations, don't let it fall through the cracks left undiscovered.
  • he harsh reality of entrepreneurial start-ups can help science become more commercially focussed.

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