By Kyle Mahoney
As crowds viewed exhibits at the Intellectual Ventures technology expo in Washington, D.C., it was hard to determine which was more diverse—the innovations or their impacts.
Front and center at the May 19 event on Capitol Hill was one of IV’s most renowned inventions, the Photonic Fence.
The device is the innovation of Global Good, a collaboration between IV and Bill Gates that aims to solve invention challenges in the developing world. The Photonic Fence is a space-age approach
to eliminating disease-carrying mosquitos. Using off-the-shelf parts and custom software, the fence targets mosquitoes and uses lasers to zap them.
The fence was invented as a pesticide-free defense against the spread of malaria, a parasite that kills more than 600,000 people a year. The device is also being considered as a way to battle agricultural pests.
Though attendees didn’t see a live demonstration of the Photonic Fence, a ideo with the display got the message across. Hundreds of policymakers and staffers got a firsthand view of IV’s latest technologies that also included an ultra-efficient, advanced nuclear reactor; a next-generation satellite antenna that will simplify satellite connections for broadband internet on the go; and a
vaccine storage device that could make Ebola vaccine trials possible in Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
IV, based in Bellevue, Wash., brought some of its lab innovations across the country for the showcase in honor of National Inventors Month. With 87,000 feet of custom lab space in the Seattle
suburb, the IV Lab works with 11 of America’s top 50 inventors—including the two most prolific American inventors in history, Dr. Lowell Wood (most patents granted) and Dr. Rod Hyde.
Using equipment to study photonics, nanotechnology, chemistry, biology and more, IV’s researchers are granted hundreds of patents each year. Technologies invented in the lab have been used as the foundation for five new venture-backed startup companies. IV has infused more than $2.3 billion into the economy since 2000, with more than half of that ($1.35 billion) paid to independent inventors, startups/subject matter experts and to universities and governments.
“Intellectual Ventures helps create a world in which invention can thrive through the shared commitment to research, collaboration, investment and defense of inventors’ rights,” said Russ Merbeth, Intellectual Ventures chief policy counsel. “From IV’s inception in 2000, the ultimate goal was to build a scalable invention company that supports, nurtures and champions inventors, undertaking the hard work of creating breakthroughs, and these technologies are some of the fruits of that vision.”
Members of Congress attending included U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, who saw how his support for a strong patent system has enabled the United States to remain in a leadership role for global innovation. Ph.D. physicist and patent holder Bill Foster, D-Ill., addressed the crowd and reinforced the strong importance of protecting intellectual property for the success of U.S. technology companies.
Representatives from IV spin-out company TerraPower, IV’s Global Good and the IV Lab team were on hand to illustrate that a commitment to invention can revolutionize how the world innovates when we create smart policies that protect inventors and enable companies to commercialize world-changing technologies that improve communities on a global scale.