The Australian and New Zealand office of Intellectual Ventures has been in operation for over four years. There have been many highlights: hundreds of inventions sourced, relationships with 4 of Australia's top academic institutions, 5 Platinum inventors (inventors with 10 or more selections in one calendar year), four commercial deals and a raft of other achievements which I hope to elaborate upon in future blogs this year.
But the subject of this blog is to outline one of the commercial partnerships we have formed.
When you look at IV's historic areas of expertise, you might suppose that our commercial partnerships would be concentrated on information technology - working closely with a software or hardware company.
But remember IV's mission: to create an invention marketplace where inventors and their creations are valued and available to transform industry and in turn, people's lives.
What we've discovered is that there is a strong industry interest for viewing the world differently - for taking an inventive approach to solving previously intractable and curious problems.
That's what led us to the meat industry. That's right - the red meat industry to be precise. One of our first commercial partnerships here in Australia, formed in 2012, has been with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), via their MLA Donor Company, a membership driven service company that invests in research and marketing to benefit the Australian red meat industry.
For many years MLA has been trying to find solutions to a problem called 'objective carcass measurement' with a range of Australia's leading research institutions. IV was introduced to MLA in 2012, and after a number of meetings it became clear to them that our offering was very diverse. In fact I remember almost the precise moment the light went on. We were discussing our problem definition process (called requests for invention, or RFIs, that are succinct problem summaries) and we showed some examples. At that stage we thought our most likely point of interest and expertise for MLA would be in the area of packaging or perhaps robotics. But amongst the three cover pages of RFIs I showed to them was one called 'organ motion tracking', from the field of human surgery. It was this that caught their eye and provoked a conversation that produced our present partnership on objective carcass measurement or OCM as it is known.
OCM is about making better decisions about meat quality before, as well as after, an animal is processed. The decision-making process about what becomes hamburger mince, dog food or steak for fine dining is still very subjective and based on human experience. That process has served the red meat industry tolerably well, but in the Australian industry at least it means there is room for improvement. For example, some meat is too tough because the animal has been stressed when it was processed. What if that was known before processing and steps could be taken to relax the animal? In addition to improving the quality of the end product, it would also be more humane. Or what if disease affecting the animal internally could be detected before it was processed, thereby avoiding contamination of non-affected meat? Finally, what if we could better process the meat so that it aged faster or could be made more tender during processing?
These are all problems that IV inventors have been working on for almost a year with a range of solutions now provided to MLA for advice. MLA already intends to proceed with a number of the solutions presented and are examining a range of others.
But our work doesn’t stop there. Ultimately we want to see those new ideas put into action, not just in Australia but around the world, because it will lead to efficiencies that will help improve food output, the eating experience, and a more humane process for the animals that are processed.
And MLA Donor Company is a unique and terrific partner with which to invent. They are committed to innovation and have been willing and interested partners.
We already have a second project underway with them (this time it IS on packaging!) and we look forward to working closely with them to harness the power of invention for their industry.