Rev. May 19, 2014
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CORNING INCORPORATED: ACCELERATING 160 YEARS OF INNOVATION
Less than six months into his new role as innovation officer for Corning Incorporated,
Marty Curran was worried. His previous role, as manager of Corning’s global optical-fiber business, had been simple in comparison. He had taken the job well aware of the broad scope of
Corning’s technology expertise, but Curran found the sheer number of technologies in various stages of development disconcerting.
Corning had just announced an across-the-board restructuring in anticipation of revenue and margin pressures in multiple segments. Corning’s R&D budget clearly contained languishing projects that should be disbanded, but its portfolio undoubtedly also contained some blockbuster businesses that would allow the Fortune 500 company, founded in 1851, to flourish for another
160 years (Exhibit 1). But despite Corning’s history of breakthrough innovation, Wall Street still discounted investment in technology. Curran remembered a lesson he had learned many years ago: an invention must be commercialized to be an innovation.
As Curran thought about the challenges he faced, he also recalled his meeting six months earlier with Corning CEO Wendell Weeks. In appointing him to the new position, Weeks had tasked Curran to lead “an entrepreneurial-focused organization that would operate across all business segments to identify and develop near-term revenue opportunities.” Weeks also charged
Curran with “streamlining the innovation process and creating faster product development and speed to market.” Cutting to the chase, Weeks said, “I don’t need you to hit a bunch of home runs…but you do have to help our R&D investment in start-up programs stop