Sunday, May 4, 2014

taking risks for innovation

George Heilmeier has died. A respected scientist noted for his work to develop liquid crystal display technology, he earned my admiration four decades ago for his leadership of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency [DARPA] as it worked on many of the technologies -- like stealth, GPS, advanced computers -- that gave the United States the most advanced weaponry and a vibrant high technology industry in later decades.

I remember most vividly the day he came before the R&D subcommittee and pleased, "For us to succeed, we need the right to fail." He wanted Congress to let him try a broad range of efforts; he didn't want to feel risk averse, shadowed by lawmakers eager to pounce on shortfalls. He was right then, and I hope that spirit prevails at DARPA and among our leading edge innovators.

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