The U.S. Navy announced yesterday it will deploy a ship-mounted laser that can disable a hostile boat or shoot down a drone by igniting it on fire. What is so striking about the press release is its focus on money. Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder noted:
This capability provides a tremendously affordable answer to the costly problem of defending against asymmetric threats, and that kind of innovative approach is crucial in a fiscally constrained environment.
Bleeding-edge military technology typically focused on new capabilities at any cost (see B2 bomber, F-22 Raptor, SeaWolf submarines, etc…). If the price tag didn’t hit a billion dollars it wasn’t a major R&D effort. The Cold War-driven space race ticked up over a trillion in today’s dollars. With our main office located close to Tampa's Southern Operation and Command (SoCOM) we frequently see (and patent) new military technologies.
However, with new efficiencies come new opportunities. Klunder put the laser’s capabilities in financial terms:
Our conservative data tells us a shot of directed energy costs under $1…Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to fire a missile, and you can begin to see the merits of this capability.
Efficiency is Innovation
Some of the most valuable technology we have ever patented related to efficiency and not new features. For example:
- A protective gas mask that pre-folds for storage which reduces labor costs.
- Ammunition that is designed for high volume assembly with less QC issue.
- A system for mixing algae for producing biofuels and nutraceuticals using low amperage pumps.
- LED light technology that produces lumens at a very low kWH cost.
If there is a method of providing a service or producing a product at less cost, using less labor, with less overhead then gaining exclusive rights to that innovation can be valuable. Ask yourself:
- Can I assemble this with less parts?
- Can I simplify the assembly to use less skilled labor?
- Can I replace an expensive component with something less costly?
- Can I modularize this for multi-use?
- Can I reduce the size of the unit for better shipping and inventory storage?
- Can I reduce the packaging requirements?
Innovation is a continuous inquiry about what can be improved. So don’t stop asking the question when your product or service meets its operational goals. Everything can be improved and patents on more efficient designs are frequently the most valuable IP secured.