When the next Mars rover, "Bridget," takes off in 2018, it will be packing exactly the kind of high-tech gear and scientific equipment you'd expect for an interplanetary expedition. 

But when it embarks, that futuristic piece of gadgetry will be running its experiments on a computer system already decades out of date.

See Also: Manufacturing Innovation & Product Development Strategy

"Our little rover is an incredible piece of technology," said Tom Enders, CEO of aircraft manufacturer EADS (IW 1000/59), which helped build Bridget with subsidiary Astrium and the European Space Agency. "But at her heart are computer processors from the '90s."

This was how Bridget was introduced to the IT world at the CeBIT computer expo earlier this year: not as the pinnacle of technological might, but as an example of one of the fundamental failings in the industry. 

Enders sees a gap between the ideas and products at the heart of industrial R&D, created by sticking some of the most talented and imaginative engineers in siloed industries and isolationist companies.

The result is the kind of disconnect embodied in the Bridget rover – a 21st century design featuring 21st century concepts, running 20th century software. 

To close this gap, he has called for the IT industry to join him in "setting out a cross-industry action plan, not just for aerospace, but for all the manufacturing industries facing this problem."

Doing so will mark a dramatic shift in innovation – breaking down proprietary walls that have kept competitors apart, and embarking on a new path of collaborative innovation.