Thursday, October 14, 2010

Innovation and the Miners

If you’re like me, you were following the story of the miners in Chile. Watching their incredible rescue was wonderfully exhilarating as it was a story of faith, perseverance, leadership, determination, and many other things, including innovation. In today’s Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger writes a column on how Capitalism Saved the Miners. While the article was interesting, what I felt was particularly noteworthy was how some companies jumped in to help out. From the article:

Center Rock Inc. is a private company in Berlin, Pa. It has 74 employees. The drill's rig came from Schramm Inc. in West Chester, Pa. Seeing the disaster, Center Rock's president, Brandon Fisher, called the Chileans to offer his drill. Chile accepted. The miners are alive.
Longer answer: The Center Rock drill, heretofore not featured on websites like Engadget or Gizmodo, is in fact a piece of tough technology developed by a small company in it for the money, for profit. That's why they innovated down-the-hole hammer drilling. If they make money, they can do more innovation.

This profit = innovation dynamic was everywhere at that Chilean mine. The high-strength cable winding around the big wheel atop that simple rig is from Germany. Japan supplied the super-flexible, fiber-optic communications cable that linked the miners to the world above.
A remarkable Sept. 30 story
(Innovations Ease the Plight of Trapped Miners) about all this by the Journal's Matt Moffett was a compendium of astonishing things that showed up in the Atacama Desert from the distant corners of capitalism.

Samsung of South Korea supplied a cellphone that has its own projector. Jeffrey Gabbay, the founder of
Cupron Inc, Richmond, Va., supplied socks made with copper fiber that consumed foot bacteria, and minimized odor and infection.

Chile's health minister, Jaime Manalich, said, "I never realized that kind of thing actually existed."

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