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A Brand-Name Generic

A UK company has a smarter way to commercialize R and D

3 min read

High-tech blood analysis tools, fuel cells, radio tracking devices for racehorses, financial modeling software, cardboard soft-drink cans--these are just some of the varied and unique technologies brought to market by a British company that has just about the most unremarkable name ever, The Generics Group. Generics not only brings technology created by its own 200-strong research team to market, but it has a knack for helping other R and D operations exploit good ideas that don't fit into their regular business models.

A name that includes "Generics" may have an unfortunate low-rent resonance to North American ears, but the company has a classy pedigree. Founded in 1986 by Cambridge University engineering professor Gordon Edge, Generics began with Edge's vision of breaking with the typical consulting business model. Instead of merely selling its experts' time, the company invested in and exploited intellectual property generated by its researchers. And now the company also exploits the research ideas of others.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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