Portions of the following post were taken from an article by Rob Spiegel publishing through Design News Daily.

Two former Apple design engineers – Anna Katrina Shedletsky and Samuel Weiss have leveraged machine learning to help brand owners improve their manufacturing lines. The company, Instrumental , uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify and fix problems with the goal of helping clients ship on time. The AI system consists of camera-equipped inspection stations that allow brand owners to remotely manage product lines at their contact manufacturing facilities with the purpose of maximizing up-time, quality and speed. Their digital photo is shown as follows:

Shedletsky and Weiss took what they learned from years of working with Apple contract manufacturers and put it into AI software.

“The experience with Apple opened our eyes to what was possible. We wanted to build artificial intelligence for manufacturing. The technology had been proven in other industries and could be applied to the manufacturing industry,   it’s part of the evolution of what is happening in manufacturing. The product we offer today solves a very specific need, but it also works toward overall intelligence in manufacturing.”

Shedletsky spent six (6) years working at Apple prior to founding Instrumental with fellow Apple alum, Weiss, who serves Instrumental’s CTO (Chief Technical Officer).  The two took their experience in solving manufacturing problems and created the AI fix. “After spending hundreds of days at manufacturers responsible for millions of Apple products, we gained a deep understanding of the inefficiencies in the new-product development process,” said Shedletsky. “There’s no going back, robotics and automation have already changed manufacturing. Intelligence like the kind we are building will change it again. We can radically improve how companies make products.”

There are number examples of big and small companies with problems that prevent them from shipping products on time. Delays are expensive and can cause the loss of a sale. One day of delay at a start-up could cost $10,000 in sales. For a large company, the cost could be millions. “There are hundreds of issues that need to be found and solved. They are difficult and they have to be solved one at a time,” said Shedletsky. “You can get on a plane, go to a factory and look at failure analysis so you can see why you have problems. Or, you can reduce the amount of time needed to identify and fix the problems by analyzing them remotely, using a combo of hardware and software.”

Instrumental combines hardware and software that takes images of each unit at key states of assembly on the line. The system then makes those images remotely searchable and comparable in order for the brand owner to learn and react to assembly line data. Engineers can then take action on issues. “The station goes onto the assembly line in China,” said Shedletsky. “We get the data into the cloud to discover issues the contract manufacturer doesn’t know they have. With the data, you can do failure analysis and reduced the time it takes to find an issue and correct it.”

WHAT IS AI:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence exhibited by machines.  In computer science, the field of AI research defines itself as the study of “intelligent agents“: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success at some goal.   Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is applied when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving”.

As machines become increasingly capable, mental facilities once thought to require intelligence are removed from the definition. For instance, optical character recognition is no longer perceived as an example of “artificial intelligence”, having become a routine technology.  Capabilities currently classified as AI include successfully understanding human speech,  competing at a high level in strategic game systems (such as chess and Go), autonomous cars, intelligent routing in content delivery networks, military simulations, and interpreting complex data.

FUTURE:

Some would have you believe that AI IS the future and we will succumb to the “Rise of the Machines”.  I’m not so melodramatic.  I feel AI has progressed and will progress to the point where great time saving and reduction in labor may be realized.   Anna Katrina Shedletsky and Samuel Weiss realize the potential and feel there will be no going back from this disruptive technology.   Moving AI to the factory floor will produce great benefits to manufacturing and other commercial enterprises.   There is also a significant possibility that job creation will occur as a result.  All is not doom and gloom.

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LET’S DO THE NUMBERS

September 7, 2016


The convergence of mechanical and electronic engineering, coupled with embedded software, has produced an engineering discipline called mechatronics.  The “official” definition of mechatronics is as follows:

A multidisciplinary field of science that includes a combination of mechanical engineering, electronics, computer science, telecommunications engineering, systems engineering and control engineering”.

Technical systems have become more and more complex, requiring multiple disciplines for accomplishment of product designs that satisfy the needs of consumers and industrial markets.  If you read the technical literature, you have run across the phrase “the internet of things” or IoT. IoT is the interworking of physical devices, vehicles, buildings, airplanes, consumer appliances, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators and network connectivity enabling these devices and objects to collect and exchange data.

If I may, let’s now take a look at several fascinating numbers:

  • The world-wide public cloud services market is projected to grow 16.5% in 2016 to a total of $204 billion. This is up from $175 billion in 2015.  The world-wide X86 server virtualization market is expected to reach $5.6 billion in 2016, an increase of 5.7% from 2015 (Gartner, Inc.)
  • In July of this year, Apple announced it had recently sold its billionth iPhone since introduction in 2007.
  • The number of mobility devices managed from 2014 to 2015 increased 72%. (Citrix, “7 Enterprise Mobility Statistics You Should Know.”
  • 58% of consumers would consider eventually owning/riding in an autonomous automobile. (Deloitte 2015 Global Mobile Consumer Survey.)
  • The number of connected devices world-wide will rise from 15 billion today to 50 billion by 2020. (Cisco/DHL Trend Report, April 2015)
  • By 2020, 90% of cars will be online, compared with just 2% in 2012. (Telefonica, Connected Car Report 2013)
  • Nearly half (48%) of consumers check their phones up to 25 times per day. (Deloitte 2015 Global Mobile Survey)
  • The US mobile worker population will increase from 96.2 million in 2015 to 105.4 million mobile workers in 2020. (IDC, “US Mobile Worker Forecast,2015-2020.)
  • Mobile workers will account for nearly three quarters (72.3%) of the total U.S. workforce. (IDC,” U.S. Mobile Worker Forecast, 2015-2020.)
  • 86% of those ages 18-29 have a smartphone. 83% of those ages 30-49 have a smartphone. 87% if these percentages are for those living in households earning $75,000 and up.

To keep pace with the design of complex, connected products requires engineers from different disciplines working closely together.  These engineers will be from different disciplines and will coordinate on design, simulation, prototyping and testing.  It also requires real-time input from co-workers outside engineering departments. For this reason, our schools and universities MUST alter their teaching methods to attract and train individuals capable of working to bring the U.S. population these marvelous advances in technology.  This not only means in the product development area but in manufacturing also.  Many companies see technology as a means to redefine what it means to be a manufacturer.  Thanks to the growing popularity of IoT in industrial and consumer products, design complexity shown no signs of slowing.

I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

THEY’RE ON VACATION

July 7, 2016


As a “working” engineer, I have been extremely fortunate over the years to have had positions of employment that were truly fascinating.  One such position was Engineering Product Manager for General Electric Cooking Products.   I was involved with the International Group, specifically the Latin American Pole.  My basic charge was to oversee the design, testing, and troubleshooting of cooking products for sale into the Caribbean, Central America and South American countries.  These products carried the GE logotype and represented mid to top-of-the-line configurations.  It was a great opportunity and a very rewarding job in that I was expected to become knowledgeable regarding the various country standards our products had to adhere to.  Our products had to comply with UL, CGA, IEC and all local and country codes that applied to the various gas and electric products.

For many of us, cooking with natural gas, propane or butane can be considered somewhat of a “black art”.  There are many factors affecting gas burner operation: 1.) Gas pressure, 2.) Type of gas used, 3.) Injection velocity, 4.) Number of burner ports, 5.) Overall design of burner including burner throat, 6.) Overall input of burner, etc.  The proper balance MUST be accomplished or the product can experience: 1.) Flashback, 2.) Lazy or drifting flame, 3.) Noisy burner, 4.) Sooting, 5.) Excessive burner temperatures creating issues with burner sagging and distortion.  In 1998 several issues with burner sagging were experienced with one type of “up-shot”, multi-port burner.  This burner was running on propane with excellent results on all previous occasions.  One issue—the problems were all being experienced in the Middle-East and not Latin America.  As always, we tried addressing the problems with e-mail and then phone calls.  Replacement parts and assemblies were shipped but the problems ultimately were not solved.  Our reputation was at stake as well as cessation of sales so the decision was made to send representatives over to witness first-hand the occurrences and propose a “fix”.  I, along with an engineer from the company that designed the burner, was selected to make that visit.

I looked upon the problem as a challenge and was eager to see what could be done to solve the dilemma.  A problem in one area of the world is bound to turn up in another.   The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan were the countries experiencing issues so those became our targets.  The necessary travel arrangements were made, immunizations received, visas obtained and we were off.  I flew from Louisville, Kentucky to Frankfort, Germany on the first leg of the trip then to Dubai in the UAE.  Our itinerary was Dubai, Riyadh, Cairo, and Amman then Gatwick in London.  From Gatwick back to Louisville on the last leg of the trip.   Two and one-half weeks was allotted for the venture.  Our visit was the first of August and I will NEVER forget upon landing in Dubai the announcement coming over the intercom—“It’s a balmy 111 degrees Fahrenheit in lovely Dubai. Hope you brought your swim suit.”  I did NOT but I did as told and brought two changes of clothes per day due to the heat and humidity in the countries we would visit. Even that was not enough.  Thank goodness for hotel laundry services.

Our work in Dubai was a success but Riyadh was a great deal tougher.  Due to constituents in the propane “mix”, we had great difficulties in orificing each burner to burn properly with no “yellow-tipping”. Yellow-tipping is an indication of soot and soot is an indication of incomplete combustion.  NOT GOOD.  Soot will cover the bottom of cooking utensils and can eventually bake on, thus destroying the bottom surface of the utensil.  The ultimate solution, at least for Saudi Arabia and that propane mix, was a different burner system.  We recommended just that.

The point of this post is really our flight from Riyadh to Cairo.   The flight was absolutely packed with no seats vacant.  In Saudi culture, the ladies must be accompanied by a male with no Saudi lady traveling alone.    Approximately one-third of the flight had passengers, all wearing the customarily burka, with eyes-only visible.  This is who they are and what their culture demands.  It’s just a given.   The nose wheel rotated, we reached altitude, leveled off, and when all was calm I immediately made an obligatory visit to the bathroom.  Very uneventful flight!  Approximately two and one-half hours with a lovely meal provided.  Before we landed, I made another trip to the bathroom.  Upon returning to my seat, I realized something very,very strange indeed.  Where had all of the ladies, festooned in their burkas, gone?  They were nowhere to be found.  Our sales rep in the Middle East was a great gentleman and friend named Wassim.  I asked Wassim—OK, where are they? Where did they go?  This brought about a hardy laugh.  His reply—“After we left Saudi air space, they went to the bathroom and removed their outer covering.  They are on holiday.  No more Saudi oversight.”  This absolutely blew me away.  When leaving Saudi Arabia, these ladies actually became “people” recognized by the human race as such.

Culture, ethnicity, language, religion, regional norms, behavior patterns, etc are absolutely fascinating.  I think the reason we have not been visited and colonized by little green men is they realize we have an enormously complex system here on Earth and they simply do NOT wish to be a part of it. Too much agony.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.


A web site called “The Best Schools” recently published a list of the top twenty (20) professions they feel are the most viable and stable for the next decade.   They have identified twenty (20) jobs representing a variety of industries that are not only thriving now, but are expected to grow throughout the next ten (10) years. Numbers were taken from projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for 2010 to 2020.  I would like to list those jobs for you now as the BLS sees them.  Please note, these are in alphabetical order.

  • Accountant/Auditor
  • Biomedical Engineer
  • Brick mason, Block mason, and Stone mason
  • Civil Engineer
  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Financial Examiner
  • Health Educator
  • Home Health Aide
  • Human Resources Specialist
  • Interpreter/Translator
  • Management Analyst
  • Market Research Analyst
  • Meeting/Event Planner
  • Mental Health Counselor and Family Therapist
  • Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist
  • Physician and Surgeon
  • Registered Nurse
  • Software Developer
  • Veterinarian

I would like now to present what the BLS indicates will be job growth for the engineering disciplines.  Job prospects for engineers over the next ten (10) years are very positive and according to them, most engineering disciplines will experience growth over the coming decade.

Professions such as biomedical engineering will see stellar growth of twenty-three percent (23%) over the next ten (10) years, while nuclear engineering will actually see a four percent (4%) decline in jobs over the coming decade.

The engineering profession is expected to follow the range of average job growth — about five percent (5%) — through 2024. Engineers, however, are expected to earn more, beginning right after graduation.  Two smart moves that will help engineering job prospects, according to the latest stats, include post-graduate education and the willingness to move into management. This is no different than it has always been.  I would also recommend taking a look at an MBA, after you receive your MS degree in your specific field of endeavor.

Mechanical Engineer

Petroleum

Materials Engineer

Aeorspace

Civil

Biomedical

Neuclear


Chemical

Computer Hardware

Industrial

Electrical

Mining

Computer Programmers

Environmental

Health and Safety

CONCLUSIONS:

I think it can be said that any profession in the fields of engineering and health services will be somewhat insulated from fluxations in the economy over the next ten years.  We are getting older and apparently fatter.   Both “conditions” require healthcare specialists.  Older medical and engineering practitioners are retiring at a very fast rate and many of the positions available are due those retirements.  At the present time, companies in the United States cannot find enough engineers and engineering technicians to fill available jobs.  There is a huge skills gap in our country left unfilled due to lack of training and lack of motivation on the part of well-bodied individuals.  It’s a great problem that must be solved as we progress into the twenty-first century.  My recommendation—BE AN ENGINEER. The jobs for the next twenty years are out there.  Just a thought.


In 1985 I was self employed, as I am now, as a consulting engineer.  That year, being my “rookie” year, was one in which I had a great deal to learn.  One painful learning experience involved theft of intellectual property—MY PROPERTY.  I suppose in hindsight it was good it happened early in my company’s history but the memories of that event remain very much etched in my psyche.

The company involved, we will call them Company “A”, manufactured microwave (MW) ovens; many hundreds of MWs each day.  Company “A” had very personnel-intensive assembly lines with many “hands-on” operations.   They recognized that automation could save them hundreds if not thousands of dollars on a daily basis.  My company developed robotic systems to automate manufacturing processes.  It seemed like a good fit.

I had called on them several times prior to receiving a telephone call one afternoon asking if I could come for another visit to discuss a project preparatory to quoting.  I scheduled an appointment two hours later in the same day. (Cash flow is a huge issue for any company and particularly a new, fledgling company.)

The project involved rotation a partially-assembled MW door so additional components could be installed prior to final assembly.  As with any company, they ask me to provide several options with accompanying cost projections for each.  There were three viable possibilities with varying complexity that satisfied their demands for production times and degrees of employee involvement.  After three weeks of design work and drafting, I presented each option to the purchasing manager of Company “A”.  I was assured the appropriate individuals would review my work and the options and make a decision quickly so I could order parts and start fabrication of the robotic superstructure.  A week went by, then two weeks, then a month, then six weeks until finally I get a phone call.  This is just about how it went.

PURCHASING AGENT:  Hey, can you come down to take a look at another project and possible provide a quote?

CIELO TECH:  How about the quote I furnished five weeks ago?  Are you going ahead with that one?

PURCHASING AGENT: We are still deciding on which option we want to use.  This one is still in the works but we do feel you can do the work and we are very satisfied with your second option.

CIELO TECH:  OK, good. I will be down tomorrow afternoon.  (I don’t remember the time but that’s of no real consequence at this point.)

I made the visit the next day.  We again, went to their assembly line to get a better picture of the job they wished me to look at and eventually quote.   It was a fairly simple hold-down fixture requiring installation of rivets attaching four mating brackets.  Not that complex but a good project and if you can automate the process you are better off for it.  I was given all of the parts necessary to design my fixture but while walking back to his office, he was paged to answer an emergency phone call.  One that could not wait.  During those days, there were no cell phones so he answered the call from a desk phone located at the head of an adjacent assembly line.  The phone call lasted for several minutes and during that period of time I was approached by an employee asking if I could come take a look at the system I had just installed.  JUST INSTALLED!  It apparently needed a slight adjustment—tweaking.  A great deal of confusion swelled up and as I got closer to the adjacent assembly line I realize that MY robotic system was running and running wide open.  MY SYSTEM.  The purchasing agent caught up with us.

PURCHASING AGENT:  You are not supposed to be here.

CIELO TECH:  I can understand why.  This is my system.  Who built it and why was my design used?

The employee was truly baffled and embarrassed and slowly moved back to his work cell after receiving looks that could kill from the purchasing agent.  My questions were not answered but one comment was given.

PURCHASING AGENT:  You can sue us if you wish but you won’t win.  We can keep this thing in court long enough to bankrupt you.  You know that.

I did know that. He was correct.  To prosecute the theft would have tied me up for years and taken a tremendous amount of time and creative capital.  I simply did not have the time to recoup my investment.   I left, never to return.  About a year later, Company “A” moved their production to China.   I had provided too much detailed information and my designs were very easy to fabricate. Lesson learned.  I’m sure he was a hero to his management and boasted on how much money he saved the company.  The fact that his actions were very much immoral had no real concern to him and his management cared not one whit.

QUESTION:  Just how big is intellectual property theft and counterfeiting in our country today?  As Senator Bernie Sanders would say:  “It’s YHUGGGGGGE”.  Let’s take a look.

THE THREAT:

According to ABC News, counterfeiting has become a one-trillion-dollar industry globally, and has deprived governments of much needed tax revenue. The United States alone loses 250 billion dollars a year to various types of intellectual property theft, resulting in the loss of 750,000 jobs nationally. In the music industry, the people who suffer the most from pirating are neither the musicians nor the companies. Instead, low- or mid-level employees, like song writers and sound designers, are left without a job because of sales that are lost to illegal downloads.  According to the Crime Prevention Council:

“Not only is the United States the wealthiest country on Earth, but it is also the world’s greatest producer of intellectual property. American artists, entrepreneurs, inventors, and researchers have created a nation with a rich cultural fabric. Every day, Americans can avail themselves of consumer goods, entertainment, business systems, health care and safety systems and products, and a national defense structure that are the envy of the world. It is frequently said that the American imagination knows no bounds, and that is probably true. In fact, the U.S. Patent Office recently issued its eight millionth patent (Cyber Attacks and Intellectual Property Theft, Defense Tech, August 22, 2011). The U.S. Copyright Office has issued more than 33.6 million copyrights to date (U.S. Copyright Office).  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Intellectual Property Center has calculated the worth of intellectual property in the United States as being between $5 trillion and $5.5 trillion (Counterfeiting and Piracy: How Pervasive Is It?, Electrical Contractor magazine, 2008, retrieved November 12, 2011).

More than 250,000 more people could be employed in the U.S. automotive industry if it weren’t for the trade in counterfeit parts (Counterfeit Goods and Their Potential Financing of International Terrorism). According to the Council of State Governments (Intellectual Property Theft: An Economic Antagonist, September 7, 2011), the U.S. economy loses $58 billion each year to copyright infringement alone—crimes that affect creative works. That includes $16 billion in the loss of revenue to copyright owners and $3 billion in lost tax revenue. Furthermore, the problem is transnational: The U.S. Department of Commerce puts the value of fake products—such as CDs, DVDs, software, electronic equipment, pharmaceuticals, and auto products—at five to seven percent of world trade.

This one really scares me. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates 15 percent of the pharmaceuticals that enter the United States each year are fakes, with that number having increased 90 percent since 2005 (Counterfeit Drugs: Real Money, Real Risk, Wellescent.com). Some are manufactured domestically, but more than 75 percent of these drugs come from India (Counterfeit Drugs: Real Money, Real Risk, Wellescent.com). Frequently, online pharmacies that distribute fake drugs purport to be located in Canada, but a recent study conducted at the University of Texas found that of 11,000 online sites that claimed to located there, only 214 were actually Canadian (Counterfeit Drugs: Real Money, Real RiskWellescent.com). According to an article published on the Secure Pharma Chain Blog on March 22, 2008 (Counterfeit Pharmaceutical StatisticsSecure Pharma Chain Blog), 60 percent of all counterfeit drugs have no active ingredients, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that “even a small percentage of counterfeit drugs in the drug supply can pose significant risks to thousands of Americans” (FDA: Drugs: FDA Initiative To Combat Counterfeit Drugs, retrieved November 11, 2011).  Moreover, counterfeit drugs are commonly made and distributed by criminal gangs (Bad Medicine in the MarketAEI Outlook Series, Institute for Policy Research, American Enterprise Institute, retrieved November 11, 2011).

OFFENDERS:

Who are the biggest offenders?  Offenders in foreign countries are the principal source of the threat to United States IP. Production of infringing goods is conducted primarily outside the United States and these items may cross numerous borders prior to delivery to consumers in the United States. The one notable exception is the production of pirated works in the United States for domestic production. The magnitude and type of threat to United States interests varies from country to country. Offenders in China pose the greatest threat to United States interests in terms of the variety of products infringed, the types of threats posed (economic, health and safety, and national security), and the volume of infringing goods produced there. The majority of infringing goods seized by CBP and ICE originated in China. Offenders in China are also the primary foreign threat for theft of trade secrets from United States rights holders. China‘s push for domestic innovation in science and technology appears to be fueling greater appropriation of other country‘s IP. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (China Commission) has cautioned that China‘s approach to faster development of sophisticated technology has included the ―aggressive use of industrial espionage   As the globalization and growth of multinational corporations and organizations blurs the distinction between government and commerce, it is difficult to distinguish between foreign-based corporate spying and state-sponsored espionage. Although most observers consider China‘s laws generally adequate for protection of IPR, they believe China‘s enforcement efforts are inadequate. Despite some evidence of improvement in this regard, the threat continues unabated. Offenders in India are notable primarily because of their increasing role in producing counterfeit pharmaceuticals sent to consumers in the United States. Offenders in the tri-border area of South America are a noteworthy threat because of the possible use of content piracy profits to fund terrorist groups, notably Hizballah. The most significant threat to United States interests from offenders in Russia is extensive content piracy, but this is principally an economic threat as the pirated content is consumed domestically in Russia. Distribution and sales of infringing goods are the principal violations in the United States. Except for pirated content, there is limited domestic production of infringing goods. Physical pirated content is commonly produced in the United States because it is more cost effective to create this content domestically than import it from overseas. Printing of sports apparel and paraphernalia for last minute sports events, such as the World Series or Super Bowl, also is common in the United States because there is not enough time to import these goods from other countries.

CONCLUSIONS:

What can be done to halt theft?  Rigorous prosecution of “local” property theft can be accomplished if the theft results from companies originating in the United States.  That must be done.  Off-shore theft from companies around the globe and counterfeiting is much more difficult but could be handled if we were so inclined to do so.  It’s purely political.

As always, I welcome your comments.


Some of the information for this post was taken with the January/February 2016 issue of R & D Magazine.  This is a marvelous publication and I recommend it to you as a source of viable information relative to research and development.

I certainly hope everyone realizes the remarkable benefits derived from R & D funding.  The vision comes first, then the hard work of research to prove or disprove viability of the proposed project.   Some R & D efforts yield results definitely before their time.  We see this again and again in industry and commerce.  Great ideas but due to lack of funding for commercial development or possibly an idea is just before its time.

Let’s take a look at what might be in store for funding during the 2016 year and then a projection as to what might occur through 2018.  We will do so for the United States and for other countries.

Research and development (R&D) is defined as the process of creating new products, processes and technologies that can be used and marketed for mankind’s benefit in the future. The R&D processes and their costs vary from industry to industry, from country to country and from year to year.  The 2016 Global R&D Funding Forecast this year is sponsored by the Industrial Research Institute (IRI), Washington, D.C.  This study reveals that global R&D investments will increase by 3.5% in 2016 to a total of $1.948 trillion dollars.  This equates to purchasing power parity (PPP) values for more than 110 countries having significant R&D investments greater than $100 million. If we take a look at spending for 2014, 2015 and proposed spending for 2016, we see the following:

R & D Funding

Let me explain the two categories North America and the U.S.  The North American “bucket” includes Canada, the United States and Mexico.  This is somewhat nebulous from the chart that’s the breakdown.

For 2015 and 2016, R&D investments in the U.S. continue trends started five years previous. These include: 1.) restrictions on total federal government spending for R&D, 2.) the resultant decline in federal government support of academic R&D investments (and their struggles to compensate), and 3.) the slow increase in industrial R&D spending (and its share of the total R&D “pie”). Despite these ‘drags’ on R&D support, the U.S. continues to be the largest single country in R&D investments with slightly more than a quarter of all global R&D spending.  These R&D programs are supported by industrial, sixty-six percent (66%), federal government twenty-five percent (25%) and academic/non-profit seven percent (7%) investments. There are substantial changes being seen in the character of the U.S.’s industrial R&D makeup. Life science R&D, for more than ten years, has been the largest sector in the industrial technology arena.  This is very surprising to me but demonstrates the great need, at least in the United States.  For 2016, many of the large players in this sector—Novartis, Pfizer, Merck, Sanofi, Astra Zeneca, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb and more (not all are U.S.-based, but most have large U.S. installations).  All are expected to reduce their large multi-billion dollar annual R&D investments in 2016. A reduction of products in the R&D pipeline, increased regulatory pressures and consumer resistance to high-priced drugs are some of the reasons that pharmaceutical companies are likely to see reduced revenues and a reduced ability to continue funding mega-scale R&D programs.

Much of the R&D growth in a country is driven by that country’s economic growth, which is measured by the gross domestic product (GDP). GDP growth, as documented by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is forecast for a 6.3% increase for China in 2016, a 2.8% increase for the U.S. and significantly smaller increases for European countries—China’s GDP growth is still significantly larger than all other potential competitors for the immediate future. India has larger GDP growth expectations—7.3%for 2015 and 7.5% for 2016, but its GDP is less than that of China or the U.S., as are its R&D investments(less than 1% of its GDP).   India’s recent strong GDP growth and commitment to R&D currently rank it as the sixth country on the list for overall R & D expenditures.

You can see from the graphic below the relative differences in funding from each segment of our globe.  North America, by far, exceeds other areas, but please notice China.  R & D efforts from China are definitely on the rise and much of the R & D funding involves military weapons and expansion of their desire to dominate the Pacific Rim.  I am also impressed by funding undertaken by Japan and South Korea.  The Pacific Rim is on board and making great progress in the number of international patents awarded to academia and industrial concerns.

American Dominance

If we “drill down” and look at countries specifically, we see the following graphics.  Please note:  GERD = Gross Expenditures on Research and Development and PPP = Purchasing Power Parity (used to normalize R&D investments)

US--Belgium

Mexico--Total

I know this is a bit of an eye chart but does give a very detailed accounting of who has spent the most from 2014 to 2015 and what is projected for 2016.  Please note also the “Global R & D Expenditure” is almost two trillion US dollars.

Looking at the digitals below, we see trends in spending that reflect economies across the world.  Money is very tight. Banks are only looking at low-risk projects that have guaranteed payback.  There is a very limited venture mind-set relative to lending institutions.  Researchers over the world are looking for “angles” to fund their ventures and those angles are few and far between.   It also pays to be well-connected and communicate with your favorite lobbyist.

What Changed

Can you depend upon the US government to fund your project?  I have been waiting on an SBA loan for over one year.  I’m still being encouraged but to date have no real assurance the loan will become available.  Nothing is a “slam-dunk” even though the probably of project success in my case is well over fifty percent (50%).  Still, no bananas.

Will Govt Funding

You will note the Fed seemingly has no problem in funding the various federal branches shown below. I have no problem with this, although the waste and fraudulent practices are really troublesome to me.  Those have been adequately documented by other non-Federal enterprises.

Top U.S. Federal R & D

The chart below gives us a glimpse of what prognosticators feel are the most viable technologies through 2018.  I can agree with all of these categories.  I would say that if you have a son or daughter interested in a profession within the STEM fields, he or she might look into the ones given below.  Every category below needs trained professionals.  These fields of study will not welcome high school graduates and in most cases the most important work will be accomplished by individuals with Masters or Doctoral degrees.  This is where we are with technology.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Important Technologies by 2018

 

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