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Dr. Stephen A. Di Biase served as the Chief Executive Officer of Laser Applications Technology (LAT) LLC and as currently President of Premier Insights, LLC. He is an entrepreneur, building businesses and capabilities from emerging technology.  In leading LAT, Dr. Di Biase developed the business model and go to market strategies for introducing a disruptive technology for labeling produce.  With Premier Insights, Dr. Di Biase teaches leaders how to become more innovative by making innovation a discipline they can refine.

During his 40 year career, Dr. Di Biase has become accomplished in using innovation to create value in a global commercial setting.  He has over 20 patents, mentored technical professionals, and taught innovation and human resource management in both corporate and university settings. He has guest lectured at several academic institutions and has authored books, patents and corporate publications. 

Dr. Di Biase graduated from The Pennsylvania State University and sits on the Science Advisory Board for The Pennsylvania State University. He is also a retired member of the Board of Trustees for the Mt. Union College, and has served on the Board of Directors of the Industrial Research Institute, a leading experienced based innovation management association.

Prior to joining JohnsonDiversey, Dr. Di Biase spent 26 years with the Lubrizol Corporation, where he held a variety of leadership positions, including general management roles and those with profit and loss responsibility for emerging businesses derived from technology platforms.  These global assignments often involved business development from strategy conception to execution managing teams of Sales, Marketing, and Business Development professionals.

Prior to accepting the assignment in business development Dr. Di Biase was the Vice President – Research, Development, and Engineering where he was responsible for the global technical and scientific leadership for a centralized R&D function comprising of 700 professionals, an operating budget of $120+ million, and a capital budget of $10+ million. 

In this role Dr. Di Biase fostered innovation and delivered results using processes such as stage gates, project and portfolio management, 6-Sigma, and advanced statistics while introducing a variety of IT based tools such as data mining and predictive modeling.

Dr. Di Biase has served as chairman of The Lubrizol Foundation Scholarship Committee, Chairman of the Northeastern Ohio Section of the American Chemical Society, Board member of the Cleveland Area Research Directors (CARD) and in The Boy Scouts of America where he served in a variety of posts.   Dr. Di Biase has been honored by The Pennsylvania State University College of Science with its 2007 Distinguished Alumni Award and serves as an adjunct professor at Benedictine University in Naperville IL.






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Food for Thought

Open Innovation

Stephen Di Biase

Open Innovation

Clearly recognized the criticality of Partnering/Open Innovation is a critical success factor for many business strategies.  Ad-hoc processes, while effective, are neither efficient nor sustainable and must be replaced with a formal methodology.  The proposed method will be focused on current Suppliers but rooted in benchmarked processes of leaders in Open Innovation techniques.  The contemplated process will allow for unsolicited proposals from entrepreneurs and be data driven.

The initial framework will employ the WANT-FIND-GET-MANAGE system and require a dedicated staff of professionals to lead the effort.  This team will be closely aligned with the RD&E Staff and Global Marketing Council and its sub-councils in carrying out its function. 

Partnering/“Open Innovation” - Vision and Strategy


The definition of Open Innovation (OI) is widely accepted to be “a paradigm that assumes firms can and should use external ideas, and internal and external paths to markets, as the firms look to advance their technology” – Henry Chesbrough.

The OI concept, first considered in the 1980s, emerged as a meaningful technology strategy in the middle 1990’s, and has been extensively viewed as a key to successes at companies like P&G, General Mills, IBM and others. OI is based on the firm joining forces with other world-class companies and organizations and sharing resources. Examples include:

  • Pfizer and Warner-Lambert joining forces to market Lipitor,
  • Clorox developing more than 75% of their innovations with external partners,
  • IBM earning $1.2 billion per year out-licensing its technology.

This approach has also been dubbed by academics open sourced innovation or the more recent the more wide-encompassing transformational growth.

Companies practice OI in an ad-hoc manner for years with many products containing some level of third party content.  An ad-hoc approach to Open Innovation is neither efficient nor effective especially relative to the refreshed strategy or emerging formal management systems. In addition, the criticality of OI will only grow as pressure to improve productivity increases.





Stage Gates

Stephen Di Biase

Stage Gate Process

The concept of an idea-to-launch system is not new. Back in the 1960s, NASA developed its phase review process, an elaborate development system for working with contractors. The U.S. military and many suppliers subsequently adopted the system. But this “first-generation process” was engineering oriented, missed many best practices in NPD, and did not have go or kill decision points or gates. Stage-Gate was developed in the 1980s as a “second-generation NPD process” and is different from phase-review because it is a business process (not just R&D or engineering), built in best practices uncovered from studying exemplary NPD projects, and incorporated tough go/kill gates. Stage-Gate was ultimately trademarked by Robert Cooper and the Product Development Institute in the United States. A number of variants of Stage-Gate were developed by a range of consulting firms and users but employed different names, such as “phase-gate” process or “gating” process. Now companies are moving toward next generation, or third generation, processes. This generation, however, may not be as new as it sounds, especially when you consider the article that appeared almost 15 years ago in PDMA’s Journal of Product Innovation Management (JPIM) titled “Third Generation New Product Processes.” The evolution and improvement of phase processes in NPD goes on.






Business Model Innovations

Stephen Di Biase

Abstract 5:     Business Model Innovation

Business models are the framework by which the enterprise links ideas, market change forces and technologies to yield a favorable economic outcome. Every company has a business model be it articulated or latent. Further each business model ahs certain unique characteristics to the enterprise that can create competitive advantage or be a liability.  Sometimes both occur depending on circumstances and timing.

Historically business models have been “closed” in that they evolved over time from within the enterprise in response to opportunities and threats.  With the advent of the information age and the “Silent Revolution” internally derived business models are losing effectiveness and are being shaped by external forces under the umbrella of “open models”.

All business models have 6 basic and often critical elements including the:

  1. Value Proposition
  2. Market Segmentation
  3. Value Chain
  4. Cost Structure  and Profit Potential descriptions
  5. Value Network
  6. Competitive Strategy

The Value Proposition and Market Segmentation describe what value will be created and for whom – the customer(s).  The Value Chain describes how that value will be delivered with the Cost Structure and Profit Potential estimates assessing how much it will be worth to the enterprise.  The Value Network holds who are the direct and indirect stakeholders in the market and how they’ll be considered or linked facilitating the enterprise in being successful. Finally, the Competitive Strategy describes how the enterprise will create and defend their competitive advantage.

Depending on the nature of the business, and the enterprise within in it, these 6 basic elements can describe a simple undifferentiated business (e.g., Mom and Pop restaurant) to one that defines the marketplace (e.g., Wal*Mart).

The fully developed business model, sometimes called a Platform Player, which shapes the market, has the following characteristics:

  1. Directs the evolution of the market in their favor
  2. Encourages those in the value network to fit their business models to the Platform Player’s model.
  3. Drives investment in furthering the Platform Players model and strategy
  4. Integrates their business model with customers and suppliers
  5. Uses the business model as a driver of innovation
  6. Partners share risks and investments with the Platform Player’s innovation process
  7. IP is managed as a strategic asset
  8. Innovation and IP management is embedded in every business unit

Odor Mitigation Case Study

Stephen Di Biase

Case Study – Odor Mitigation by The Platform

The Platform is a business development opportunity enabled by a technology platform based on a trade secret formulation of enzymes, penetrants and surfactants capable of activating natural agents in a system to do work. Specifically The Platform acts as a catalyst to help natural materials, such as bacteria, destroy pollutants.  This work can be digesting waste, cleaning surfaces, managing biofilms etc.

It’s well recognized that natural systems are often the most cost effective in creating outcomes and often mimicked by human activities.  Perhaps the most obvious example is treating human illnesses with antibiotics by copying natural processes and materials in the laboratory.  The simple conclusion is that finding ways to help nature do what it does best can be very commercially attractive.

The Platform appears from field observations and published reports, to be able to facilitate natural processes to function more effectively. In essence, The Platform is behaving like a catalyst, meaning it can be employed at very low treatment levels, suggesting attractive economics.

A critical observation is that The Platform activity has been reported from fermented products indicating our observations are substantiated. However, fermented products are very limited in their applications since they must be prepared by biological processes.  The Platform is a formulated product from readily available, low-risk materials, making it potentially very board in its applicability and not limited as other competitive naturally derived offerings.

The Platform has proven to be commercial effective of  in 5 unique applications suggesting the basic mechanism of “catalytic system activation” is occurring. Successful commercialization has occurred in Municipal Waste Water Treatment (MWWT), lagoon treatment, cooling tower management, deodorization of air scrubber systems, and waste control of Concentrated Animal Farm Operations (CAFOs).  These field observations are supported indirectly by laboratory results involving synergistic effects with known biocide compounds and microbial metabolism studies.

In every application, the value proposition has been compelling resulting in nearly universal acceptance of The Platform program at EBITDA returns in excess of 20%. Further, there have been no customer losses once The Platform program has been adopted.

The U. S. market potential of the aforementioned applications is $3-5 billion USD of which we believe ~$100 MM is accessible within a 3-5 year timeframe.  In addition, geographic expansion and yet to be studied applications, such as biocide additives, CAFOs and aquaculture offer significant upside growth opportunity. 

CEO Strategies for the High Technology Startup

Stephen Di Biase

CEO Strategies for the Technology-Based Startup

A successful technology-driven, or product-driven, new venture combines a value-driven orientation, an organization capable of delivering that value, and a supportive executive leadership team. Less visible, but equally critical, is a culture that enables replication of the initial successes. All of these factors are required for the new venture since risks are inherently higher as supported by five-year failure rates.

The customer’s priorities, objectives, and values are key to any value proposition and must be approached as absolutes over the short term. The value proposition must contain targets, frames of reference and points of differentiation, enabled by the appropriate support structure. Together these three dynamic descriptions, once aligned, create an actionable plan yielding win-win economic outcomes. Within the value proposition three specific points of reference exist: preferred, differentiated and entry. For the venture based on a new-to-the-world and/or market offering a bias for value to the “lead user” is helpful in catalyzing market adoption even though these users may not be large customers in their own right.

Beyond the value proposition, the organization must be capable of delivering on the value promised. This requires the CEO and executive team to build and maintain an organization committed to implementing and continuously improving seven clearly proven and critical parameters:

  1. Place the customer at the epicenter of the business model.
  2. Focus on solutions that anticipate customer needs.
  3. Learn from competitors, but stay faithful to your vision.
  4. Create an authentic learning organization.
  5. Harness the intellect of every employee.
  6. Create a performance-driven culture.
  7. Prepare the organization for change, especially drastic change that can be common with new ventures.

Finally, but equally important, is developing a leadership mantra that is sound and grounded in past experiences, while focused on the future knowledge-worker economy. Seven specific leadership characteristics, which have borne the test of time, are proven to drive effective performance and yield sustainable results are:

  1. Integrity – Keep your word, don’t play favorites, and tell the truth.
  2. Vision – Explain why the team’s activities are important.
  3. Competence – Demonstrate skill in some aspect of business.
  4. Decisiveness – Make sound, defensible decisions in a timely fashion.
  5. Humility – Acknowledge that you don’t know everything.
  6. Persistence – Don’t give up easily, but know when to manage your losses.
  7. Team building and maintenance – Show that “It’s all about the people.”

Although a new enterprise has the highest probability of success when it effectively combines value to the customer with an organization capable of delivering that value and has a leadership team that exhibits these proven characteristics, clearly tools and processes also are necessary. These include meaningful strategies, sufficient resources, insightful metrics, and a bias for delivering results in a predictable manner. However, tools and processes still require the aforementioned prerequisites to optimize the chances of success.

The Role of the Innovation Leader

Stephen Di Biase

The Role of Innovation Leader

If you’re going to lead innovation successfully it must be your passion for both – leadership and innovation.  Anything short of this will fail. You must live and breathe innovation and the desire to innovate through people – this is leadership.  The starting point for being passionate is having Purpose.  Purpose is the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc. and the context is that which surrounds, and gives meaning to, Purpose. Successfully leading innovation requires the leader to define their purpose and recognize the context in which they’ll achieve it.

My personal Purpose for leading innovation is to make the world a better place for having lived in it and the context is merging the academic or theoretical world of innovation with real world where value will be created.  I begin doing this by reading widely on innovation and leadership then applying it in my job and life every day in an iterative fashion.  I hope you’ll appreciate this context as I move from the academic world of innovation to the real world of applying it to create value.

What is your purpose and context for leading innovation? Are they theoretical or pragmatic, strategic or tactical, inspiring or mundane?  Only you can define these, but they are critical to even beginning. Often our Purpose and context are latent and unexpressed something that will retard our ability to achieve the results we want. Answering these questions is a critical success factor and once you define your Purpose and context you must remain consistent within it. 

Let’s begin with two definitions: leadership and innovation both with elements from Peter Drucker who was perhaps the leading thinker on these topics. Leadership, according to Drucker, is lifting a person's vision to higher sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.  Innovation is defined as the specific act of responding to, and exploiting, change, by endowing resources (e.g., people) with a new capacity to create wealth. 

Given these definitions let’s begin with answering the question, albeit incompletely, how does one lead innovation?

Innovation is hard work and leading innovation even harder still work, but there is no alternative to sustained success especially in today’s current economic climate.  In the end, it’s all about people, including the leader, and finding ways to make people successful. Critical success factors are: everyone involved in the innovation process must have a purpose, passion and courage.   This simply means that you, as the leader, must want to do it with all your being. It must drive your existence.  However, even the most effective leader of innovation must deal with the fact that things beyond your control will impact your destiny.  But it’s worth it because when innovation is successful it doesn’t get any better.