When Bell held its 1952 Symposium to show companies how to manufacture transistors, there were eight companies in transistor production by the end of that year, 15 in production by the end of 1953 and 26 by the end of 1956.
Very quickly TI demonstrated the learning curve effect which meant that when you doubled production, cost fell 73%.
The great developments: the silicon transistor, the mesa transistor, the planar transistor, the IC, the microprocessor, semiconductor memory and programmable logic each rapidly brought a swarm of competitors into the market.
You had to be quick to survive. To flourish you usually had to be first.
It is that spirit which the great Andy Grove, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Intel, is trying to bring, to the pharmaceutical industry.
Grove is giving $1.5 million to the University of California at San Francisco and Berkeley to set up a master’s degree programme in ‘translational medicine’ – the process of turning biological discoveries into marketable medicines.
“What we have learned from decades of rapid development of information technology is that the key is relentless focus on ‘better, faster, cheaper’ — in everything,” says Grove, “the best results are achieved through the cooperative efforts of different disciplines, all aimed at the same objective.”
Grove’s thesis is that the pharmaceutical industry is too slow at doing this. By applying the rapid-fire innovation techniques of the chip industry to the pharmaceutical industry, argues Grove, treatments can be brought to market quicker.
There is, apparently, a general recognition that the pharmaceutical industry’s innovation process is inordinately slow, though the pharmaceutical industry defends itself by pointing out that biological phenomena are not so easily encapsulated in a spec sheet as electrical phenomena.