Although engineers and designers may spend months, years – even entire careers – working to solve or improve a particular problem, they may rarely stop to ask more fundamental questions about what they do, or how they do it. But very occasionally, such questions do come up, and they present their own challenges.
At the ITF Technology Showcase in early March, perhaps the youngest-ever CEO to speak at the event, 22-year-old Josh Valman posed a question that I have not seen in years of conference attendance: “What is innovation?” It felt stranger than it perhaps should in an audience of inventors and industry veterans, but if there was ever a time to question the paradigm, it is surely now.
Thankfully, Valman did define his terms. Innovation, he said, is “the process of executing new ideas,” and approaching it from this perspective makes it easier to understand how it can be done better. Communication, as ever, is vital, but Valman also noted the importance of oversimplification. In oil and gas especially, a common and accepted mindset is that a tool, piece of equipment or technique may require a decade or more to be developed, tested and qualified before it can be a commercial product – but that is not a required state of affairs. Good ideas can come from anywhere, but how they are executed determines their success.
Most importantly though, is the ability of everyone within an organisation to contribute to how it innovates. If 2% of ideas can get to market, then the 98% that don’t are the most important. Valman’s parting message was a reminder that a failed idea is not wasted time – companies must therefore create environments which allow for that necessary failure, if they are to truly embrace innovation.
With any luck, this edition of InnovOil might be a good place to start. Having graced our cover only a year ago, Norwegian robotics developer Eelume is back with the latest incarnation of its snake-like subsea robot for offshore IMR. We learn how the project has progressed, and what’s next for the pioneering firm.
We also feature a raft of co-operative and collaborative projects from Wood Group, Heriot-Watt University, OGIC and the US’ Argonne Lab, tackling subsea power, cable surveying, oil spill cleanup and more.
Drilling also makes an appearance, as Baker Hughes explains the history behind its latest adaptive drill bit technology, and Ros Davidson explores the past, present and rapidly approaching future of laser drilling. We also have more thoughts and presentations from the sidelines ITF Technology Showcase and IHS Markit’s CERAWeek in Houston.
So, innovators; fail again, and fail better. We are pleased to present the April issue of InnovOil.