Over the past 20 years I have focused on the synthesis process, the
process of creation, of bringing together ideas and objects to fulfill and
enable needs. Synthesis is a core engineering activity, the partner in the
design and analysis cycle of engineering (and other) design. Synthesis is
the basis of innovation, the enabler of creating that which is new. Over
the past 20 years, research and practice in the area of synthesis and
innovation has become more intricate, more complex, and more complete in
its breadth of exploration and depth of understanding and delivery.
Research in the area that was started over the past 10 to 20 years is now
being commercialized, beginning to impact the way design is practiced. The
state of the art of algorithms, theories, and processes for the computing
basis of synthesis research today can be found in Formal Engineering
Design Synthesis (Antonsson & Cagan, 2001). This discussion is not a review of the
literature or state of the art, but rather my views of the field of
innovation, its emergence into a scientific study, areas of focus for
future research, and some of my experiences in each of these areas.