TechConnect News speaks with John Sirman, Director - Emerging and External Technologies at Praxair Inc.
Please tell us about yourself and your role within Praxair.
I am the Director of External and Emerging Technologies within Praxair. My role is to identify, engage with and analyze technologies or corporations that have technology that can bring benefit to Praxair, and to seek out the best possible relationships and methods of interaction with those people and companies.
What are technology/solution areas that you have a primary interest in?
Praxair’s mission of “Making our planet more productive” is the driver behind the technology areas of interest to us. We are most often looking to develop technologies that improve both energy and capital efficiency of our atmospheric and process gas production, as well as developing new applications for gases that improve customer processes (reduce costs, increase yields, lower environmental footprint, improve quality). The production of most gases is very energy intensive so methods to reduce the energy required for separation or processing are important. Additionally, many of our plants are large and may require months of assembly, so technology to reduce field construction is of interest. Also, any technology or solution that helps increase gas intensity in industrial and chemical processes in one of our major market segments as well as any new uses for gases outside our typical market segments are attractive.
What level of commercial maturity do you typically look for in technology partnerships?
We are interested in many stages of commercial maturity, but in general it should be at least at TRL 3. Within our internal R&D departments, we have a portfolio of projects across the maturity range, and look to manage technology partnerships in the same manner. Depending on the fit and value to Praxair of the technology, the readiness of the technology and time to commercialization can be larger or smaller. Project partnerships can be managed in many ways, from a very hands-off approach to fully integrating the technology. This will typically depend on how close to our core competencies the external technology may be.
Tell us why innovation is important to your company and how this model supports your efforts to find new innovations. Could you describe 1-2 policies or programs your company has in place to support external innovation? e.g., website for folks to submit ideas, division within your company dedicated to new innovations etc Innovation at Praxair takes many forms from free flowing ideation to market- or customer-pulled development projects. Praxair’s technology group works very closely with our business leaders and operations groups to ensure that we are targeting the most valuable opportunities and that we are in a position to maximize monetization of the new product or application. Praxair is also exploring other open innovation processes to increase the breadth of new opportunities, while maintaining our business and commercial focus.
Why work with TechConnect and the National Innovation Summit as a technology prospector? Who are you looking to meet with?
TechConnect’s Summit gives Praxair the opportunity to meet and evaluate many different external technologies and opportunities in one location over a short period of time. This is valuable to Praxair and fits with our productivity mentality of getting the best results as efficiently as possible. Praxair is looking to meet with small start-ups and potential research partners, customers, academic institutes and government agencies that bring a technology of interest to us and are looking to collaborate in development through commercialization of new opportunities.
What did you like most about the 2016 conferences?
TechConnect-National Innovation Summit provided the opportunity to review and discuss with innovators from a wide array of backgrounds in a short period of time. We have pursued further engagement with several of the companies that we met with at the 2016 symposium.