Upon hearing that Grove City College’s newest dean of STEM, Richard Savage, had a lot to say about his experience with innovation I decided to conduct an interview to further learn about his experience with entrepreneurship.
The idea of innovation was first evident to Savage while he pursued his bachelor’s and doctorate within the disciplines of material engineering and chemistry. After finishing his doctorate, Savage worked at Instrumentation Laboratory, a large biotechnology corporation, but did not feel satisfied in the work he was doing there. In effect, he left the company and decided to work for a start-up founded by some friends of Savage from graduate school. PlasmaTherm sought to utilize high-temperature plasma to create semiconductors for goods in the 1970s when technology was very basic. The start-up consisted originally of fifteen people but grew to be a large public corporation that gained 350 million dollars in revenue. After PlasmaTherm went public, it split off into divisions. One of the subsidiaries that Savage served as President and grew was called PlasmaTherm Analytical. Eventually, it was sold off to another business.
“When you talk about innovation, I was blessed through that experience to get involved in semiconductors,” said Savage “It was really exciting to be an engineer, a scientist to be working in that environment because the companies grew, innovation occurred every year.”
You may be wondering after the success of PlasmaTherm, what would Savage’s next enterprise be? The answer: another start-up. Semiconductor Technology was created and initially invested by Savage and two other partners. The business started off with revenue of zero dollars and increased revenue to ten million dollars. One of their largest customers at the time was Intel. In the end, Savage claimed that it became harder to fund the growth of the business in order to keep up with demand and it was decided to merge the company. Soon after the merge, Savage worked with Silicon Valley Group, the largest semiconductor equipment provider. Later, his career would take him to other executive corporate business positions and eventually a university faculty member. Indeed, Savage’s background speaks highly to the integration of the STEM discipline and the entrepreneurial spirit.
“The two little businesses I owned taught me about entrepreneurship, PlasmaTherm Analytical and Semiconductor Technology. Semiconductor Technology I’m particularly proud of because we literally started it from scratch.” Savage said.
Savage further stated that he supports the idea of having STEM majors work and learn about other fields to gain interdisciplinary knowledge. He claims that some of the most fascinating examples of innovation happen when people from different expertise come together to borrow methods from one another, problem-solve and create an idea that has the potential to impact others for good.