February 2012 Theme: Innovation, Tech Transfer, and Entrepreneurship
Guest Editor's Introduction: Gary McGraw

Where does technology come from? Can you teach people to be entrepreneureal? What can we do as a society to encourage and foster innovation? As software completely transforms the business world, what can we do to harness and channel the creative power that it unleashes?

This special issue of Computing Now brings together articles from several different corners of the IEEE Computer Society portfolio to address a common theme: innovation, technology transfer, and entrepreneurship. This hot topic is under discussion in board rooms and classrooms alike, and major technical conferences, including the upcoming RSA Conference (27 February – 2 March), are devoting time to the issue, as well. Ironically, about the only thing everyone agrees on is that tech transfer from the lab to global availability is nontrivial.

For this special issue, I gathered five articles that shed some light on the subtleties and complexities of tech transfer. In a piece that I authored for IEEE Software, I discuss a real example of success to examine the challenges that tech transfer poses in terms of time scale, budget, and dedication. Static analysis tools that review source code for security are now widely available through IBM and HP. Ten years ago, these tools were hatched as fledgling technology in the lab at Cigital. My article describes the decade-long process involved in commercializing a scientific result.

Shari Lawrence Pfleeger and John Favaro describe the kinds of innovation that software engenders in the modern world in their piece, “Software as a Business.” The software market itself is undergoing constant change — from the cloud and software as a service (SaaS) to now-ubiquitous apps and open source. As a guest editor’s introduction, this piece is a roadmap for even more depth on the subject.

The next two articles (“Discovery, Innovation, and Creativity” and “Engineering and Innovation“) describe efforts to teach innovation and entrepreneurship to computer scientists and engineers in college. Do they succeed? You be the judge.

Finally, two Googlers describe the company’s now famous approach to harnessing employee innovation through the 20 percent time experiment and other internal activities.

If nothing else, these articles provide plenty of food for thought on this complicated issue. If you’re interested and provoked by what you read here, please plan to join us in San Francisco at the RSA Conference for a distinguished panel on Innovation and Technology Transfer in Security — leap day, February 29, at 8 AM. The panel includes Peter Denning, Brian Chess, Carl Landwehr, and Paul Kocher. Listen to a short promo for the panel here. Hope to see you at RSA.

For more on this important topic, the following links offer further reading.

Gary McGraw, “Silver Bullet Talks with Paul Kocher,” IEEE Security and Privacy, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 8–11, Jan./Feb. 2011, doi: 10.1109/MSP.2011.18

Brian Chess, Brad Arkin, “Software Security in Practice,” IEEE Security and Privacy, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 89–92, Mar./Apr. 2011, doi: 10.1109/MSP.2011.40

Gary McGraw is Cigital’s chief technology officer. He is also author of Exploiting Online Games (Addison-Wesley, 2007), Software Security: Building Security In (Addison-Wesley, 2006), and seven other books. McGraw has a BA in philosophy from the University of Virginia and a dual PhD in computer science and cognitive science from Indiana University. Contact him at gem@cigital.com.