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Curtis R. Carlson

Vice Chairman, Innovation
Curtis R. Carlson

Curtis R. Carlson, Ph.D., is SRI International’s vice chairman for innovation. He is a pioneer in the development and use of innovation best practices and an evangelist for innovation and economic development, sharing SRI’s best practices with government agencies, businesses, and foundations around the world. His insights on R&D and value creation led to creation of the SRI Five Disciplines of Innovation® process, which are shared with SRI staff and with organizations worldwide through tailored client workshops and initiatives. Government agencies in the United States, Sweden, Finland, Chile, Malaysia, Japan, Brazil, Taiwan, and other countries are applying SRI’s innovation practices for economic growth.

Carlson served as SRI’s president and chief executive officer from 1998 to 2014. Before joining SRI, he spent more than 20 years with RCA Laboratories, GE, and the Sarnoff Corporation. Carlson joined RCA Laboratories, which became Sarnoff Corporation in 1987 as an SRI subsidiary. Sarnoff was fully integrated into SRI in 2011. In 1977, He started and helped lead the high-definition television (HDTV) program that became the U.S. standard, and in 1997 his team won an Emmy Award for outstanding technical achievement. In 2000, another team started and led by Carlson won an Emmy for a system to optimize satellite broadcast image quality. He helped found more than a dozen new companies while at Sarnoff and SRI.

Carlson is widely sought as a speaker and thought leader on innovation and global competitiveness. He was selected to serve on President Obama's National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship and is the chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Singapore National Research Foundation. He served on the National Academy of Engineering Committee on Manufacturing, Design, and Innovation, and is a council member on the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable (a joint body of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine). He is a founding member of the Innovation Leadership Council for the World Economic Forum and he advises U.S. governors and prime ministers, economic ministers, and education ministers around the world on innovation, competitiveness, and educational reform.

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 has received honorary degrees from Stevens Institute of Technology, Kettering University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he is also a trustee, and the Malaysian Technical University (MTU). He was a visiting distinguished scientist at the University of Washington in 1998, and he is a Kobe ambassador for SRI's contributions to Kobe, Japan.

Carlson has been a member of numerous boards, including Nuance Communications, Pyramid Vision, Sensar, and Sarif. He was a member of the General Motors' Science and Technology Advisory Board. He has served on numerous government task forces, including the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, National Research Laboratory Review Panels, the Galvin Naval Research Laboratory Review Panel, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Technical Assessment Board, and the Defense Science Board task force on biochemical defense. He was a member of the original team that helped create the Army's Federated Laboratories.

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 how SRI's unique process for innovation can be applied to all types of commercial and nonprofit enterprises, including the government. He is writing a new book called Creating Abundance, which will be published in 2015.

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 Sigma Xi. His M.S. and Ph.D. degrees are 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.