Charles Kannankeril was born in Kerala, India, where he received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. After coming to United States, he received a master’s degree in organic chemistry from the University of Massachusetts. Charles was accepted to the doctorate program there, but he decided to pursue engineering to broaden his knowledge base. He received a master’s degree in engineering, from the same university in the field of plastics.
Charles has over three years of teaching experience at universities in India and the United States. He has worked in the plastics and rubber industries and has forty-five years of research and development experience in this area. Charles has held various positions in these fields including development engineer, senior development engineer, senior engineering fellow, and director of research and development.
Invention has been a large part of his life. He grew up in India without much more than the essentials. Instead of wishing for the kind of luxury and modern capabilities others had, Charles created his own way by making the best out of what he did have. When he saw or heard about the new technologies and advances outside, he often thought about how to experience and recreate what he was missing. The best way he could do that was by imagining, imitating, and improvising. Charles recognized his hidden talents and skills, nurtured them, and learned how to use them. He learned the necessary techniques to train his mind and prepare it to think and act like an inventor’s mind. He set his goals high and started doing things differently with the resources available to him. This attitude of experimentation and determination gave him the creativity, knowledge, and confidence to become an inventor.
During his career, he was granted a total of seventy patents—thirty-seven from the United States and thirty-three international. Currently, Charles has ten patent applications that are pending in the US patent office. Some of his inventions are also protected by trade secrets.
Over the years, he invented and documented over three hundred ideas for new products and processes. His areas of expertise include cushion technology using Bubble Wrap, foam, paper, and on-demand cushion products; food packaging technology related to meat-packaging trays, absorbent pads, and microbial control; medical products such as inflatable hospital beds, ostomy bags, blood-wipe pads, and biohazard material shipping bags; solar-power technology, and polymer formulation and process technology. One of his significant inventions—a high temperature–resistant rubber tape formula that could withstand 3400° F—was not patented but instead kept as a trade secret.
In recognition of his contributions, Charles was inducted into Sealed Air Inventors Hall of Fame in 2004 and received the Engineer of the Year award from the Indian Engineer’s Association in 2012.
By sharing his life and research experiences, Charles’s goal is to inspire readers to be creative and set their goals high to make meaningful contributions to society by creating a better way of life.
Charlie Kannankeril is one of the most prolific and creative inventors I’ve met in more than thirty years in business. He has written a wonderful book about a creative young boy who developed a passion for invention and grew up to develop more than seventy patents. It’s also a superb guide on how to develop our inventive skills, as told by a top-notch inventor. In his book, Charlie shows us how we all can become more inventive in our professional and personal lives. A worthwhile read by anyone interested in the inventive process.
—William V. Hickey, Retired Chairman and CEO, Sealed Air Corporation
I first met Charlie in the early 1990s after he had already become a legendary inventor at Sealed Air, and I was immediately struck by how humble and curious he was. For someone with his well-earned reputation as a genius inventor he was remarkably approachable; he had time for everyone and was always available to share insights, provide gentle suggestions, and perhaps most important to challenge assumptions.
When Charlie talks about the inventor inside all of us, his philosophy is centered on a trait we all can access but often ignore—the need to be actively curious. Charlie is one of the most curious people I know—always asking questions, then questioning the answers, then using the insights gained to inform his imagination. Charlie would tell you that curiosity feeds imagination, and he certainly has a special gift for helping to unlock the inventor in all of us.
—Ken Chrisman, Division President, Sealed Air Corporation
I believe everyone possesses the potential to be creative and innovative. Some build on another’s idea such as by adding a new feature or benefit. Others start with a blank sheet of paper to create a new, game-changing concept.
Having worked with Charlie for many years, I can tell you that he excels in the ability to play both roles. If I were to categorize inventors as novice, apprentice, or master, Charlie is definitely a master. He is known among his peers as an invention machine. Much like Michelangelo describing his sculpting of David where he said he simply chipped away the stone that was not David in order to allow David to emerge, Charlie’s imagination of future possibilities brings his inventions to life. Having seen Charlie’s imagination and inventive processes firsthand, I can assure you that you are learning from one of the best.
—George D. Wofford, Vice President, Global Core R&D, Sealed Air Corporation
When I think of creativity, innovation, resourcefulness, and imagination no matter the subject matter or obstacle, I immediately think of Charles and his time at Sealed Air. Charles possesses the mind-set and attitude combined with a keen sense of curiosity that allow him to view problems differently and come up with unique solutions. His vast number of patents and trade secrets over his career are a direct indicator that being an inventor is about a drive for continuous learning to solve some of the most challenging issues in industry. Charles’s portfolio of work spans a vast array of scientific and engineering disciplines illustrating how to bring out the inventor in all of us from someone who has been living the inventor’s life since his childhood.
—Chad Stephens, Vice President, R&D, Product Care Division, Sealed Air Corporation
In the last 25 years that I have known Charlie, I discovered that he was behind some of the game changing inventions in the plastics industry, which transformed the lives of ordinary people around the globe. Innovation and entrepreneurship begin with the identification of problems in our daily lives and finding solutions for them. Charlie began his journey as an inventor by finding solutions to the problems of an under-developed island in India, the land of "Jugaad", by adapting modern technology to enrich lives. His talents eventually flourished in the world’s capital of research and development, which gave him a productive environment long before innovation became the engine of growth of the economy. Charlie's life epitomizes the story of how Indian talents, combined with the capital and opportunities of the United States, have created wonders in both countries. Many innovators have told their stories, but Charlie's book, 'The Inventor in You' is more a guide for the next generation of inventors rather than a simple account of his exceptional accomplishments. I am sure that his story will inspire new generations to identify their talents and to develop them to enrich the era of new technology, without losing the human touch
—-T.P. Sreenivasan, Former Ambassador of India, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India.