Innovation Science, the new company founded by former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan P. Myhrvold, is part of a wider trend of companies for which invention itself is the primary goal. Calling invention “the secret sauce,” Myrhvold says: “I can’t out-develop Microsoft and Oracle in databases, but I may be able to out-invent them.” Myrhvold now sees a new climate for invention, based on four major trends: the reemergence of invention outside big corporations; the increasing demand by venture capitalists that startup companies have significant, patented inventions to shield their investments from competition; the increasing use of the Internet collaboration tools to brainstorm across borders and tap international markets; and a new awareness that invention is not an accident but a more focused, deliberate process, conducted by people who are very good at finding and solving completely new problems.

Technology Review May 2004