From Roadmaps to Research Print E-mail
Written by Mike Buetow   
Wednesday, 31 August 2011 01:38
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Weighing in at some 1800 pages, the 2011 iNEMI Roadmap is the consortium’s most comprehensive to date. Editor in chief Mike Buetow spoke with iNEMI CEO Bill Bader last week about the roadmap’s latest points of emphasis, and about how an upsurge in membership is setting the pace for the future.

CA: iNEMI has released its latest Technology Roadmap. Where do you go next?

BB:A tremendous amount of effort went into it. It continues to grow globally. The big story here is its worldwide recognition and the involvement of leading players. We’re now focused on the two follow-on documents: the research priorities and the iNEMI technical plan. This is the analysis of critical gaps and where R&D work should happen. Both are to be completed this month. The research priorities go out to the R&D community beyond iNEMI’s membership, but we now have 13 research members, up from five.

CA: When you started, a major goal was to increase membership. How is the membership drive going?

BB:It’s gone very, very well. We had 62 members when I started [fall 2009], and 98 now. The number that has come on board has grown dramatically. Equally important is the type of members. We needed to beef up the members in the packaging arena, and we’ve done that. We’ve broadened the OEMs. And the research institutes, we’ve been predominantly focused on the “D” in R&D, and now we are better positioned to do the long-term priorities. I think it’s grown as I would have liked.

I should mention about the membership growth that 50% of those 98 firms are not in North America. In the past 18 months, of the 38 new members, participation in Europe has grown 150%. We’ve become a very global organization, and we need to be. The companies that do business in this industry are by their very nature global.

CA: Something different is how the “important” stuff now reflects much bigger and broader (i.e., multi-industry) problems. It used to be the Roadmap listed problems more by silos. Is that a conscious change?

BB:I think it’s cognitive. It comes back to how we are operating these days. We’ve moved very much to focusing on four fundamental areas of value-add. All four of those areas are very large and very complex. They require very strong global participation to make an impact.

Take environmental, for example. We’ve been working lead-free challenges for a long time. We’re doing great work on halogen-free. That is a very global challenge. It needs to be led by the OEMs and involve all areas of the supply chain. The challenge of the projects becomes more global and broader. It becomes important to frame the results in a way that an outcome is achievable in 12 to 18 months, and what’s the next step beyond that.

We've made great progress in miniaturization and great progress in medical. The next area is going to be alternative energy. It’s very conscious.

CA: As I look through the Roadmap trends and highlights, energy is a clear thread. But it’s one thing to identify what’s needed and another to be able to help focus actual product development. Is iNEMI in position to help members on the product development side? Because it seems like innovation in things like materials is more of a singular process.

BB: While we’re not in business to enable companies to individually design new products, we do address issues that will increase the competitiveness and availability of important product lines. We understand, for example, that greater than 50% of the cost of alternative energy systems such as PV and wind reside in the “balance of plant” electronics. Collaboration by key players in the supply chain working with OEMs can and will drive major progress in areas such as these. We have opportunities through the strengths of the membership to effectively help these businesses and product lines improve system reliability through focused engineering and science studies.

Another example resides in rare earth metals. We have a lot of cooperative opportunity to make a difference. There are alternative design choices for at least two REMs. We can’t do that alone. We are working with an organization called the Rare Earth Industry Technology Association. They have a good, strong membership among mining companies and mining universities, and we have members that are leaders in the design-in of those material choices. They are very interested in improving the efficiency of extraction. That’s not iNEMI membership, but we have some of the major customers, and they can always make the difference when you’re a paying customer.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 August 2011 01:44




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