Innovating Alongside Others – Before “Open Innovation” Was a Thing

By October 7, 2021

On what would have been Jim Waters’ 96th birthday, I’m inspired to be part of an organization in which innovation is almost a modest, default setting rather than a splashy corporate value. Our founder passed away in May this year, but his insatiable curiosity and egoless spirit of collaboration lives on. Science was Jim’s North Star, and that legacy of science and innovation remain the North Star for Waters. That’s why we created the Jim Waters Society and will induct new members in November who continually apply their expertise to deliver benefit.

Immerse Cambridge, an extension of Jim Waters’ Legacy of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Immerse Cambridge, a Waters Innovation and Research Lab, just celebrated its first anniversary. More than a stunning architectural and technological space in one of the world’s primary hubs for biotechnology and life sciences advances, Immerse is a manifestation of the Waters way. I had the pleasure of speaking with several Waters collaborators at Immerse recently, among those who had the pleasure of knowing Jim, and without prompting, they spoke excitedly about his accessibility, approachability, and eagerness to get into a lab with anyone, roll up his sleeves, and solve a difficult problem.

Researchers working at Immerse Cambridge

Collaboration for Jim was about the excitement of being shoulder to shoulder with exceedingly talented people who shared a vision of making the world a better place. That’s Immerse – and that’s open innovation. Every day, customers, partners, vendors, and inventors come together to try new things, test new technology, fail more often than they’d like, learn fast, and innovate.

On November 8th and 9th, Waters will again host its annual Innovation Summit, which I am actively planning with team members around the globe. It’s the opportune moment to celebrate innovation, recognize new inductees to the Jim Waters Society, and honor Jim’s legacy.

Innovation is just another word for problem-solving

Waters’ reputation for innovation really stemmed from Jim’s relentless posing of the question, “Isn’t there a better way?” Jim saw the commercial potential of liquid chromatography (LC) decades ago when plastics became the newest “wonder” material and, though he didn’t have a lot of experience in the area, he took on the challenge as he was smart, inquisitive, an engineer by degree, and a problem solver by nature.

He was also an opportunist. He looked across industries at the world’s leading companies and brightest minds to study others’ innovations, like John Moore’s gel permeation chromatograph at Dow Chemical.

Pittcon will pay tribute to Jim Waters legacy of innovation

Jim probably wouldn’t like this blog post; he’s featured too prominently. The man whose work in LC spurred a multi-billion-dollar industry and helped advance numerous scientific breakthroughs only ever really cared about creating a space in which the next legendary inventor and innovator could emerge.

Jim was actively involved in Pittcon, an annual conference and expo organized by the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy. In fact, Jim was among the first 18 inaugural inductees to the Pittcon Hall of Fame in 1999. The James L. Waters Symposium series at Pittcon is an annual event that has recognized drivers of innovation in the conception, development, implementation, and commercialization of scientific instrumentation of major and established significance. It feels fitting to know that Pittcon is planning a technical program spotlight as a tribute to Jim during its 2022 symposium in March. Waters President and CEO Dr. Udit Batra will attend and share remarks.

Is there a better way?

I’ve found at Waters that the answer to this question tends to be yes, and we work in constant pursuit of what that better way is. Immerse Cambridge is the first in a network of global innovation hubs Waters is launching around the world where we are finding a “better way” in partnership with like-minded problem-solvers. You’re probably one of them, so I hope you’ll stop in to Immerse if you find yourself in Cambridge or get in touch virtually to learn more about Waters open innovation.

Additional information

Blog: Legacy of Innovation

Blog: Advancing Science Together for a Better Tomorrow



Categories: Innovation, Leadership