No. 439August 2016
Member Highlight
Mike Blackburn
"Do the things you like and allow yourself to be happy"

Mike Blackburn
R&D Program/Portfolio Leader
Biochemist. Doctor of Theology. Restaurateur. R&D portfolio leader. What do these titles all have in common? They all apply to one man: Mike Blackburn, R&D Program/Portfolio Leader at Cargill.

"I believe you should diversify your interests and activities in life," Blackburn said. "As a long-term member of R&D, I like to say that I'm a quarter of an inch deep and two miles wide."

Blackburn started his career with Cargill in 1980 working in quality assurance for their corn milling operations while performing graduate work in biochemistry at Wright State University. He moved into R&D in 1986 as Cargill began to grow, focusing his work on analytical technologies. While working in that role, he completed an MS in Engineering Management from UMASS and over the next 20 years, after taking a few professional detours in some global positions at Cargill, he eventually earned a position in the core business as part of Cargill's Global Research Management team.

"On an average day I have the opportunity to connect with many people in our global R&D organization," Blackburn said. "This may be as a mentor helping an individual navigate our systems or for the preparation of a project proposal. It could be in facilitating our communities of practice to promote and improve our core technologies and enabling sciences. Or it may be in connection with a specific project to improve our processes or capabilities."

In his participation at IRI, Blackburn has taken on a leadership role in IRI's new Digitalization research platform, co-chairing the project on Big Data alongside Jeff Alexander (RTI) and David Legan, with Northwestern University's Diego Klabjan as the group's subject matter expert.

"The framework we have defined to ask how Big Data will inform, enable or disrupt R&D management is a very effective way to talk about this topic, which can be too big to handle," he said.  "We are seeing that there are many examples and tools available today that have begun to inform R&D. There are fewer examples of how R&D is being enabled today and few examples of disruption. It is clear to see that technology is growing and new methods and applications are being developed. More enabling examples will be seen in the next few years. What is intriguing is to try to predict how these new capabilities will disrupt our current systems and processes."

When asked what advice he would give to young professionals coming up in his field, he said: "I like to talk about two rules [young professionals] should consider. First rule is: Do the things you like to do... look for the things you like to do and as your career advances, pursue those things. The second rule aligns with the first: You are allowed to be happy. In life we can be driven by what others define as success. Don't be driven by a perceived path to success if it is not comfortable or it makes you unhappy. If things are not going well in your position or you are frustrated and cannot see a solution, then look for a new position either in or outside your company."

The 2016 CTO Forum
An Infographic


Read the infographic exploring the findings and musings from 
the CTOs in attendance at the 2016 CTO Forum

Help IRI Build its Next Big Research Initiative
Which trends in human capital management do you need to pay attention to? Will you be considered a dinosaur for using annual reviews? Do you need to prepare for the Hollywood model to take over? Is your staff demanding more autonomy?

IRI's next strategic research platform will do the work for you, but we need some help from you first. What trends do you think will affect you most? What do you most want to learn about? Give us your feedback this summer, via email, or drop into a Google Hangout to share your thoughts with IRI and other practitioners.
Select the Google Hangout you would like to attend:

In Remembrance of
Warren R. Stumpe
(1925 - 2016)
IRI President, 1985-1986

The IRI community lost a friend and
tremendous leader last month with the

Warren served as IRI President from 1985-86 and was the
recipient of the Maurice Holland Award in 1983 for his article:
"Entrepreneurship in R&D: A State of Mind."

His family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorials in 
Warren's name be directed to:

West Point Fund
698 Mills Road
West Point, NY 10996 


ChristPond Foundation and Retreat Center
N1599 Highway 57
Random Lake, WI 53075

ICYMI: Meta Horizon Scanning

Meta Header

Meta Horizon Scanning is a revolutionary new service that uses machine intelligence to scan the global horizon of science and technology, detect emerging concepts from within the literature, and predict their impact three years into the future.

IRI members get an exclusive opportunity to receive 3 months of pre-market access.

AAAS Announces Leadership Seminar in S&T Policy

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is pleased to announce its 2016 Leadership Seminar in Science and Technology Policy, scheduled for November 14-18. The seminar, a condensed version of the widely-hailed orientation program for AAAS S&T Policy Fellows, includes a wide range of sessions taught by leading personalities in science and technology policy. Subjects include federal budgeting for R&D, how scientists can be effective in interacting with Congress, and many other topics.

The seminar is designed for anyone who needs or wants to know how S&T policy is made -- scientists and engineers, managers and administrators in all sectors, association officials, government agency program managers, embassy science diplomats, and others.
To be held at AAAS headquarters in downtown Washington, DC, the seminar will run from 10 a.m. on Monday, November 14, to noon on Friday, November 18. The registration deadline is October 9. Since participation is limited to approximately 30-35 people, spaces will fill up quickly.
Please visit the Leadership Seminar website to view the preliminary program and register.

IRI Member Companies in the News



IRI Members Altria, Alcoa, Baxter, and The Hershey Company Make the 2016 Civic50 List, Recognizing Companies that are the Most Community-Minded

ExxonMobil and SABIC Evaluating Petrochemical Joint Venture on US Gulf Coast

Intertek partners with Técnicas Reunidas to provide technical inspection services for TOTAL's Antwerp Refinery

GlaxoSmithKline is Teaming Up with Google's Verily to Develop Bioelectronic Medicines

Lockheed Martin to Open Multi-Disciplinary Center in Melbourne, Australia

Newell Brands Completes Sale of Window Coverings Business to Hunter Douglas

Danaher Corporation Completes Separation of Fortive Corporation


Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA)
Begins Operations in South Africa


A.O. Smith upgrades Voltex Hybrid Electric Heat Pump line, earns industry recognition

Innovation News

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Philosophy Fight?


Collaboration for Innovation:
The IT behind R&D


Four ways to make your
business embrace innovation


Demand for Sustainability Spreads into Established Industries

Singapore: The First-Mover
Nation for Driverless Cars

Innovation Takes the Boring
Out of Contracting


A Manifesto for Corporate Leadership


Let Seth Godin Break Everything You Know About Leadership
Upcoming Events

2016 IRI Member Summit
"Digitalization and R&D"

October 16 - 19
JW Marriott
Chicago, IL

This year's Member Summit is powered largely by findings from IRI's groundbreaking, large-scale research project on digitalization and its impact on R&D management. The Member Summit is designed for maximum networking and exchanging of best practices.

"The Fight Against Patent Trolls"

August 5, Noon Eastern

Fall Multi-Networks Meeting

Milwaukee, WI
September 12 - 14

Research Triangle
Regional Meeting

RTI International
Research Triangle Park, NC
September 27

"Biomimicry: Streamlining the Front End of Innovation for Environmentally Sustainable Products"

October 7, Noon Eastern

Portfolio Management
Master Class - Optional Certification

@2016 Member Summit
Wednesday, 8:00 AM
Chicago, IL
October 19

Houston Regional

NASA Johnson Space Center
Houston, TX
November 1

Thank You 2016 Industry Sponsors!






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