Evangelist for the Innovation for Impact (i4i) Value-Creation Methodology

Curt Carlson

Professor of Practice: Northeastern University
Distinguished Executive in Residence: Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Founder and CEO, Practice of Innovation

President and CEO: SRI International 1998-2014
Chairman:  Sarnoff Corporation
Trustee Emeritus, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Advisor: Singapore National Research Foundation and U.S. National Science Foundation Engineering Division
Member:  National Academy of Engineering for improving NSF R&D and innovation impact
Board Member: Nuance Communications, Sarif, Pyramid Vision Technologies, and Sensar
Co-founder and Director:  U.S. National Information Display Laboratory
R&D Director:  GE and  RCA Laboratories


Curtis R. Carlson, Ph.D., is currently a professor at Northeastern University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute where he teaches innovation to students, professors, and companies based on the Innovation for Impact (i4i) value creation methodology he developed with his many partners.  At Northeastern a free version of the methodology is now available online at Coursera (see https://www.coursera.org/learn/valuecreation ). With Len Polizzotto he is developing an online interactive platform using the i4i methodology that will be available in 2021.

Carlson is a pioneer in the development and use of innovation best practices and an evangelist for innovation, education, and economic development, sharing best practices with government agencies, businesses, and foundations around the world.  Carlson is widely sought as a speaker and thought leader on innovation and global competitiveness. He advises U.S. governors, prime ministers, economic ministers, and education ministers around the world on innovation, competitiveness, and educational reform. He has been a senior adviser to the government’s of Malaysia, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Lithuania, and Finland. In 2014 he was the keynote speaker for Taiwan President Ma’s announcement of the first National Innovation Awards.

His insights on R&D and value creation led to creation of the Innovation for Impact (i4i) process, which has been shared with organizations worldwide through client workshops and other partnerships. Government agencies in the United States, Sweden, Finland, Chile, Malaysia, Japan, Brazil, Taiwan, and other countries are applying these innovation practices for economic growth and job creation.

Carlson served as SRI’s President and CEO from 1998 to 2014. During this time SRI’s revenue more than tripled, and SRI became a global model for the systematic creation of high-value innovations, such as HDTV, Intuitive Surgical, Siri, and many other world-changing advances. These innovations created tens of billions of dollars of new economic value. Mayfield Ventures partner, David Ladd, said, “SRI is now the best enterprise at turning its technology into economic value.”

Carlson led the expansion of SRI, with new laboratories and innovation centers in Saint Petersburg Florida (oceanographic research) , San Luis Obispo California (software and systems), San Diego California (artificial intelligence and analytica), State College Pennsylvania (intelligent systems), Ann Arbor Michigan (intelligent systems), Plymouth Michigan (clinical trials), Helena Montana (software and systems), and Harrisonburg Virginia (bio-sciences). 

Before joining SRI, Carlson spent more than 20 years with RCA Laboratories, GE, and the Sarnoff Corporation. He joined RCA Laboratories
inrs_293x473-130918103945-634.Emmy-Statue.jl.091813_copy rs_293x473-130918103945-634.Emmy-Statue.jl.091813_copy Princeton, N.J., which became in 1987 the Sarnoff Corporation, an SRI subsidiary, and in 2011 it was fully integrated into SRI.

In 1977 he started and helped lead the high-definition television (HDTV) program that became the U.S. standard, and in 1997 the Sarnoff team won an Emmy Award for outstanding technical achievement. In 2000 another Sarnoff team started by Carlson won an Emmy for a system to optimize satellite broadcast image quality.  These were team awards and many superb individuals played key roles in making them happen.  For HDTV essential roles were played by Dr. James Carnes (then CEO of Sarnoff) and Glenn Reitmeier (Technical Director: HDTV).  For optimizing image quality, Dr. Jeff Lubin was an essential champion.

With partners, he has helped form more than two dozen new companies while at Sarnoff and SRI.

In 2006, Carlson won the Otto Schade Prize for Display Performance and Image Quality from the Society for Information Display with Roger Cohen. They developed the first quantitative model for predicting perceived image quality.

Carlson was named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in 2012. He was honored with the Medal of Excellence Award by Rutgers University’s School of Engineering (2007) and the Dr. Robert H. Goddard Award from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) for his professional achievements (2002).  He also received the the Suffolk University’s first Global Leadership in Innovation and Collaboration Award.

He was selected to serve on President Obama’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Singapore National Research Foundation. And he served on the Scientific Advisory Board of Taiwan and the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Advisory Council.

He was a member of the Air Force Science Advisory Board, the Defense Science Board Task Force on Bio-Defense, multiple National Laboratory Review Panels, the Army’s Federated Laboratory Task Force, and the Galvin Navy Laboratories Task Force. Carlson served on the National Academy of Engineering Committee on Manufacturing, Design, and Innovation. He was a founding member of the Innovation Leadership Council for the World Economic Forum.

He has received honorary degrees from the Malaysian Technical University (MTU), Stevens Institute of Technology, Kettering University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he is also a trustee.   He was a visiting distinguished scientist at the University of Washington, and he is a Kobe Ambassador for SRI’s contributions to Kobe, Japan. He has also given commencement addresses at the University of Richmond in Virginia and Shantou University in China.

Carlson has been a member of numerous boards, including Nuance Communications, Pyramid Vision Technologies, Sensar, and Sarif. He was a member of the General Motors’ Science and Technology Advisory Board.

With co-author William Wilmot, Carlson wrote Innovation: The Five Disciplines for Creating What Customers Want, published by Random House and selected by BusinessWeek as one of the top 10 business books for 2006. Innovation describes the innovation best processes they developed over their careers and applied at SRI and at other organizations.

Carlson received his B.S. degree in physics from WPI and was named in Who’s Who Among Students. He is a member of Tau Beta Pi and Skull. His M.S. and Ph.D. degrees were from Rutgers University. Carlson has published or presented numerous technical publications and holds fundamental patents in the fields of image quality, image coding, and computer vision. At 15 he was a professional violinist in the Rhode Island Philharmonic.