April 11, 2012

Ursula Burns (Emeritus)

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Xerox Corporation

Portrait of Ursula BurnsBurns joined Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineering summer intern and later assumed roles in product development and planning. From 1992 through 2000, Burns led several business teams including the office color and fax business and office network printing business. In 2000, she was named senior vice president, Corporate Strategic Services, heading up manufacturing and supply chain operations. She then took on the broader role of leading Xerox’s global research as well as product development, marketing and delivery. In April 2007, Burns was named president of Xerox, expanding her leadership to also include the company’s IT organization, corporate strategy, human resources, corporate marketing and global accounts. At that time, she was also elected a member of the company’s Board of Directors. Burns was named chief executive officer in July 2009 and assumed the role of chairman of the company on May 20, 2010.

In addition to the Xerox board, she is a board director of the American Express Corporation. Burns also provides leadership counsel to community, educational and non-profit organizations including FIRST – (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), National Academy Foundation, MIT, and the U.S. Olympic Committee, among others. Burns was named by President Barack Obama to help lead the White House national program on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in November 2009 and was appointed vice chair of the President’s Export Council in March 2010.

Burns was born Sept. 20, 1958, in New York.

Making clean energy technology a widespread commercial reality requires more than just invention. It requires a complex optimization along the dimensions of performance, manufacturability, business model, markets, supply chain, ease of adoption/user experience, and low cost. The key to achieving this complex optimization along all dimensions is collaboration among different players in the innovation ecosystem, from government agencies and large corporations, to startups and universities. By incorporating PARC in 2002 as an independent subsidiary that is in the business of open innovation with numerous clients in this ecosystem, Xerox helped create at PARC a new model for R&D partnerships. This model facilitates the kinds of strategic collaborations that are needed in energy - and other domains - to leverage the strengths of partners, reduce risks, and fill in gaps for what’s needed to accelerate breakthroughs to market.

I’d like to share a specific example of a collaboration where U.S. government support catalyzed PARC’s strategic relationships with an innovative startup, allowing PARC to apply capabilities originally developed for Xerox to key challenges in innovation.

Recently, PARC partnered with SolFocus, Inc., a solar concentrator startup that was incubated at PARC where it grew to 50+ employees and began its first commercial deployments. Based on its in-depth and longstanding work for Xerox in optics for laser printers, PARC was able to provide breakthrough, manufacturing-friendly optical design concepts to SolFocus. However, the ability to achieve the necessary cost and reliability performance for the SolFocus systems would not have been possible without the U.S. government’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Throughout SolFocus’ development phase at PARC, NREL provided expert guidance in solar cell performance and efficiency, as well as early reliability testing of the critical mirror and packaging approaches. These inputs from NREL were vital to insure that the products would have the necessary performance and lifespan once deployed in the field.

Effective partnerships like these are the only way clean energy technology can become a widespread reality.

Leave a Reply