A long, long time ago, back in 2013, Peter Thiele famously lamented:

“They promised us flying cars and all we got was 140 characters.” 

The Yale School of Management covering a visit by Thiel at that time reported, “The rate of technological innovation is decelerating, he argued, despite our collective belief that there are smart scientists in labs somewhere, working to solve our problems.[1]

I am sympathetic to the argument that, back then, and even today, humanity is underinvesting in several hard science technologies that are clearly in our collective best interests.  But that is not to say that enormous investments aren’t being made.  And that we aren’t seeing enormous progress as a result.

Breakthrough innovations in biology and software coupled with more evolutionary but persistent innovations in integrated circuits, sensors, materials, and batteries are changing the world we live in at a pace that, in historical context at least, is truly mind-boggling.  There are indeed many, many smart scientists in labs all around the world working to solve our problems.  Thousands are even working on developing flying cars![2]

Which was all a long prelude to acknowledging that today is World Metrology Day. Guessing you didn’t know that.  But to commemorate this fine occasion, I would encourage each of you to pick out your favorite N95, and then go find your favorite metrologist, and give them a big hug.  They are working to make this world a better place, and they are often our unsung heroes.

In field after field, behind innovation after innovation, there are thoughtful, dedicated, meticulous analytical scientists and engineers producing the data and enabling the insights that power this incredible advancement.  They are our microscopists and analytical chemists.  They are masters of diffractometry and mistresses of ellipsometry.  They are probing the secrets of advanced materials and devices with tools that are getting better and better all the time.   They are helping us better understand the “what, “why” and “how” of experimentation and scientific effort.   And, by doing so, they empower the scientists and engineers on the frontlines developing myriad amazing new products.

Measurement, characterization, and imaging (we tend to package these together and just refer to all of it as “Metrology”) are the sensory feedback systems for product development in our nanoscale materials and device world.   But accessing the expertise, infrastructure and data analysis on an arms-length, transactional, job-shop basis makes absolutely no sense if the goal is to accelerate development.   Experts in applications need structured and regular access to experts in Metrology.  They need to understand their respective goals and capabilities and perspectives.  Only through deeper communication can efficient feedback loops and experimental designs be conceived.  The entire outsourced analytical services industry has grown up to effectively support regulatory and confirmatory product testing and analysis.  But R&D engineers in the materials sciences need more help and a different mode of interaction.

So that is Covalent’s mission and goal.  To find a way to effectively deliver world class metrology expertise and infrastructure through business models that transcend the traditional job shop.

We will be back soon to tell you more about it.

In the meantime, take a moment to pause and be grateful for all our great Metrologists.  Happy World Metrology Day to you all!

[1] https://som.yale.edu/blog/peter-thiel-at-yale-we-wanted-flying-cars-instead-we-got-140-characters
[2] https://investorplace.com/moneywire/2020/03/investing-potential-flying-cars-transportation/