TechConnect News speaks with Brent Boyce, Director, Concept Development for Guardian Glass.
Please tell us about yourself and your role within Guardian Industries.
I lead Guardian Glass’s team charged with identifying new product innovation opportunities outside of our core competencies or not based on our current manufacturing platforms. This broadly includes new materials, innovative product applications, and everything in between. To identify opportunities we engage both internal marketing and sales teams to understand potential market pull ideas as well as continuously scan research and development activities to identify new technologies that may be of value in the markets for flat glass products. When new opportunities are identified, we work closely with universities, contract research firms, start-ups, or potential business partners to both develop the technology and assess market interest – being careful to ensure we spend our resources on the opportunities with greatest long term value to the market.
What are the technology/solution areas that you have a primary interest in?
Guardian Glass’s interests lie primarily in identifying solutions for the markets where you currently find flat glass including building exteriors, building interiors, transportation windows and enclosures, solar energy, appliances, and displays. This can broadly encompass new materials or processes for producing, modifying, or fabricating glass, vacuum coated glass, wet coated glass, etched or patterned glass products.
Some groups of technologies are of particular interest include:
(a) Novel interaction with visible light, solar energy, and thermal radiation including both static and dynamic solutions.
(b) Novel durability including mechanical, environmental, or chemical as may be induced by bulk or surface modification effects.
(c) Novel interaction with water, ice, dust, and oils such as hydrophobic, hydrophilic, photocatalytic, easy-to-clean, and anti-static/dust behaviors.
However, new product technologies are only part of the story – identifying new processes which more efficiently produce the products of today or lower the cost to produce tomorrow’s technologies are every bit as important and of interest to Guardian. In fact, much of Guardian’s success has been based not on new products, but on efficient implementation and spread of the float glass process.
What level of commercial maturity do you typically look for in technology partnerships?
Guardian is interested in technologies at all levels of commercial maturity from concept to commercial products. For early stages of maturity, it is important that the path(s) to scale up are identified and the challenges of scale up feasibility be understood up front or in parallel. Often scale up problems require every bit as much creative innovation as did the product development itself.
Tell us why innovation is important to your company and how this model supports your efforts to find new innovations.
Guardian recognizes that creative destruction by innovation is inherent in a successful business model. New products and processes that add greater value while consuming fewer resources will eventually replace less efficient approaches. If Guardian doesn’t find it, our competition will. But we recognize that while we do expend internal resources to attack specific problems, quite often the best solutions lay outside our “four walls”.
In addition to participating in conferences such as TechConnect and classic technology or industry conferences to identify solutions outside of Guardian, another way we innovate is by collaborating with non-competitive companies. Guardian benefits as part of a network of Koch Industry companies including for example Invista, Georgia Pacific, Koch Ag and Energy Solutions, and Molex with diverse interests but with surprisingly many overlapping problems. We work continuously to share knowledge across historical corporate silos. Similarly, Guardian participates in an industrial research chair sponsorship where non-competitive companies with a shared technology interest research collaboratively and learn from each other’s solutions.
Innovation is at the core of Guardian’s business; we are constantly looking not just for new innovations, but for better ways to innovate!
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