8 March 2012 | Editor, on behalf of guest contributor
Editor’s note: This is a short version of the keynote speech delivered by Xerox Chairman and CEO Ursula Burns at the recent ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit 2012. Other keynote speakers at this event included Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy; Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States; Bill Gates, Chairman, Microsoft Arun Majumdar, Director, Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy; and others. PARC, which has participated in every ARPA-E Summit including this year’s event, presented its latest cleantech work at the ARPA-E Technology Showcase.
I’m delighted to be here at ARPA-E and to share a perspective on your work from the vantage point of a company that is not directly involved in energy… Companies like Xerox – companies outside the energy sector – have a deep interest in sustainability and energy. What you are doing matters to us: big time.
Xerox has been working at sustainability for decades – long before “green” was in vogue. Our commitment to sustainability began in the 1960s… and that early commitment has led us on a fascinating journey. We pioneered energy-reducing technology, two-sided copying, print-on-demand, the use of recycled paper in the office, remanufacturing of machines, recycling toner cartridges, and the promulgation of tough green standards for our paper suppliers… We had no idea whether we had a market for remanufactured copiers, but soon found out that there was a segment of the market that preferred them. The same is true for recycled paper – it actually sells at a premium… Over the past many years, we’ve been building a services business that has led us to be neutral on the issue of paper vs. digital documents… More than half our business now comes from services and it’s led us into places you would never expect to find us doing things you probably didn’t know we could.
Let me give you one last “I didn’t know that” moment… Many of you in this room are familiar with PARC. It has a rich history of creating new markets and taking radically new approaches to innovation. One example: the GUI was invented at PARC, helping to move the world from mainframe computing to personal computing. PARC researchers did this by combining deep science with a deep desire for impacting our world. It’s a remarkable place with a wide array of innovations. Many of them are far afield from the core interests of Xerox so we incorporated it in 2002 as an independent subsidiary that practices open innovation.
It’s a new model for R&D and it’s proven to be a win-win. We still have access to the best and brightest minds on the planet and so does the rest of the world. PARC is doing work in many other industries as well as many government bodies like the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. In fact, they have a major Cleantech program that is right up your alley… Be sure to tell them about the problems and challenges you all are grappling with. PARC’s sweet spot is resolving those and they are always looking for good partners to help take their innovations to market.
We need to stop hiding our impatience and start celebrating impatience… So, if I get a little impatient, I hope you will forgive me. Look around you. The brain power to build a sustainable world is right here. Think about what you can do – provide clean and sustainable energy for all the world. And if you’ll pardon the metaphor, this is not Don Quixote tilting at windmills. This is harnessing science to transform our world. This is about being part of the solution. This is about believing that one person can make a huge difference and everyone must try.
This is about being impatient – and doing something about it. If not the people in this room, who? If not now, when?
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