Early in 2012, MIT launched a two-year project designed to study links between innovation and manufacturing. The project, called Production in the Innovation Economy (PIE), argues that “prosperity only emerges when innovations are translated to a stream of new products and services, which are then scaled-up in a way that creates jobs and opportunities for the whole population.” GE is a good example of how this may work.
In 2012, for example, Thomson Reuters included GE in the Top 100 Global Innovators list, the company topped a clean energy patent survey, and products like its “aeroderivative” gas turbines, which have jet engine technology at their core, earned GE a spot on the TR50 list of the 50 most innovative companies published by MIT’s Technology Review magazine.
GE has turned its patents and inventions into new products, jobs and businesses like the next-generation Durathon battery and the new Energy Storage business unit that launched last summer and will employ 450 workers at full capacity. This process has been part of GE’s industrial DNA since its beginnings more than a century ago, and 2012 was a good year to track the results over the decades.
They called them the Hush-Hush Boys: A team of GE engineers stand next to GE’s I-A jet engine. In 1942, they launched America in into the Jet Age.
This summer, for example, the company celebrated 70 years since a team of GE workers built the first U.S. jet engine, which effectively launched the jet age in America. GE alone and in partnership with firms like France’s Snecma has since built almost 150,000 jet engines. The latest LEAP engines contain some parts made from revolutionary ceramic matrix composites and others “printed” on 3-D printers.
This fall it was exactly 50 years since GE engineer Nick Holonyak turned on the world’s first LED. “I knew that it was a very powerful thing and that these materials will become a source of white light,” Holonyak says. He was right. Today LEDs can improve the lighting efficiency of homes, factories, streets and parking lots by as much as 60 percent and dramatically cut maintenance costs. In May, for example, GE introduced a new 100-watt equivalent LED that consumes less than one third of the power of an equally bright incandescent bulb and lasts 25,000 hours, or over 22 years, if turned on 3 hours per day. A GE LED plant in Hendersonville, North Carolina, has hired 100 workers over the last two years to meet demand.
Finally, October 2012 marked 30 years since scientists at GE Global Research built the world’s first whole-body MRI machine. The groundbreaking 1.5 tesla magnet that the machine used has since become the industry standard for MRI. Today, there are some 22,000 1.5 tesla MRI machines working around the world and generating 9,000 medical images every hour, or 80 million scans per year.
All this innovation makes GE a hot place to work. A survey released in October by the social and professional networking site LinkedIn named GE as the “world’s most sought-after” industrial employer among site’s 175 million global members. GE placed sixth overall as the most in-demand global company, behind Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Unilever, but ahead of IBM, Procter & Gamble, Nike, Siemens, and Shell. GE was also the fifth most in demand employer among students and recent graduates from around the world. Only Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook ranked ahead of the company.