Dave Dionne, partner at Merkator, had the opportunity to visit MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) for a crash course in innovation. In this blog, Dave shares his aha-moments and how they could apply to Merkator. Enjoy!

We are forewarned before getting there: “Get ready to drink from the fire hose!” Indeed, it’s our thirst for knowledge that brought us to MIT. Drinking from the fire hose is an expression that suggests the flood of ideas and rapid intellectual growth that happens at the Institute.

Our first sip is called: Understanding and Predicting Technological Innovation: New Data and Theory with Professor, and TEDx speaker, Jessika Trancik. Constantly being in search of bringing Merkator to the next level, it is stimulating to learn how to compare the rate of progress of various technologies and products and to apply data analysis and theory to guide our investment and design decisions, to better understand the state of the art in theories of technological innovation, and their utility for particular questions faced in private companies like us.

Exploring Moore’s Law vs. Wright’s Law statistical analysis methods, measuring innovation with performance metrics, identifying commodity versus technology improvements, understanding mechanistic versus phenomenological models, with a right balance of lecture, discussions and creative groupwork ideation, as participants we were challenged to answer those simple questions: are there empirical evidence of technological innovation? and what determines the rate of innovation?

Another interesting module was covering technology design and the rate of innovation. As it is directly applicable in our Merkator’s context, it is extremely valuable to get some theory on how design complexity, technology invasiveness and unit scale could impact the rate of innovation and to explore methods like the Design Structure Matrix to identify components dependencies and where bottlenecks can form.

Gaining insight on technological innovation-related decisions in designing R&D portfolios was also a main takeaway. The group projects revealed itself to be a very enriching experience where the application of data and theory to inform decision makers and to tackle topics like:

  • Predicting the direction of future innovation?
  • Quantifying improvement trends of our project versus those of competitors?
  • Deciding on which technologies to invest in (R&D, direct investment)?
  • Predicting how costly a policy will be?
  • Designing and developing a technology toward a performance target?

Nearly all work groups where revolving around technological hypes such as Blockchain, AI & Machine Learning and IoT, but we ended up with funny projects like “smart hi-tech diapers”…

It was overall a great experience, we were exposed to lots of innovative ideas and perspectives. Connecting with people from all over the world who are passionate about innovation was the most rewarding!

Dave Dionne

Dave Dionne

Partner & Principal Consultant

Dave Dionne joined Merkator NV/SA when it was created and is a Principal Consultant and Partner of the Company. As an experienced Geospatial expert he is involved in strategic assignments at several utility companies including Tender Guidance and Program Management assignments at key public multi-utility companies. In recent years he has been involved in strategic assignments at ORES, the biggest Walloon Grid company. Prior to joining Merkator, Dave was working for Intergraph Corporation where he assisted in the automation of various Geospatial and Photogrammetric workflows in Belgium, France, The Netherlands and North Africa. Dave has a Bachelor of Science in Geography from University of Montreal (B.Sc., 1994) and holds a Master in Environmental Sciences (M.Sc., 1997) and a Master in Project Management from University of Québec (UQTR – Canada, 1997).