If necessity is the mother of invention, then capitalism is surely the mother of innovation. Five of this year\u2019s CIO 100 honorees were driven to develop unique applications of undeniably cool technologies by the almighty dollar (the need to make it and to save it).The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.\u2019s use of computer simulations to bring new tires to market has reduced the company\u2019s costs and driven revenue growth. Software developed by Monsanto is helping it breed genetically superior seeds that big commercial farmers are buying in droves. To prevent its energy costs from skyrocketing, public utility JEA implemented an intelligent system that determines the perfect mix of oil and natural gas to produce electricity while minimizing nitrous oxide emissions. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration\u2019s (NOAA\u2019s) Undersea Research Center built a network capable of transmitting large video files from an underwater lab to the Web in seconds to raise public awareness and government research funding. The Ohio State University Medical Center freed up maintenance staff and increased customer satisfaction by deploying robots to handle tasks such as removing trash and transporting meals.The five companies feted in this story didn\u2019t pursue technological innovation for its geek chic; they did it to create a sustainable competitive advantage. "At the end of the day, as cool as this thing [we\u2019ve developed] is, it\u2019s a tool," says Stephanie Wernet, Goodyear\u2019s CIO. "It is meant to serve a business end. In our case, this tool lets us put out new, more innovative products faster than the competition."You don\u2019t have to be Goodyear\u2019s size to do something cool. The key to innovation isn\u2019t money. It\u2019s curiosity and collaboration. Getting the brightest minds from different functions working together on a problem is how great things happen. What made the technologies featured so useful and the efforts to develop them so fruitful was tight-knit cooperation between IT and other departments. Read on to find out what each company did, why they did it, the significant benefits they\u2019re scoring as a result and what you can learn from their innovations. Seeds of Change What: Monsanto\u2019s IT department created software to identify genes that indicate a plant\u2019s resistance to drought, herbicides and pests; those genetic traits are used to predict which plants breeders should reproduce to yield the healthiest, most bountiful crops. The software crunches data from breeders worldwide and presents it in a colorful, easy-to-comprehend fashion. By pinpointing the best breeding stock, it increases breeders\u2019 odds of finding a commercially viable combination of genetic traits from one in a trillion to one in five. Monsanto\u2019s global breeding organization drove the project.Why: When its signature weed-killer Round-up went off patent, the St. Louis company invested in growing its seeds and genetic traits business, which comprises more than half of its $6.3 billion revenue and $255 million profits in 2005. Monsanto believes it can sell more corn, soybean and cotton seeds if farmers know its seeds will produce heartier crops and require fewer sprays of insecticide and herbicide, thus reducing costs. Technology: The software is written in Java and .Net. The Java components run on networked Linux and Unix servers; the .Net components run on Windows XP in machines at the breeding stations. Cool quotient: Monsanto\u2019s scientists use the software to effectively engineer seeds to resist drought and pests and to produce plants that are healthier for humans and animals to eat. They do it by implanting those seeds with the genetic material that makes a plant resist insects or produce more protein. What would Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics, think of this? "This is really different from the way breeders bred their crops," says Monsanto CIO Mark Showers. "They didn\u2019t have this level of molecular detail to determine and select plants they wanted to move forward from year to year." ROI: Monsanto reaps the benefit of its software but wouldn\u2019t reveal development costs. Earnings per share on an ongoing basis grew from $1.59 to $2.08, or 30 percent, from 2004 to 2005. Its EPS is expected to grow by 20 percent more in 2006. "In the last four or five years, we\u2019ve had a marked improvement in taking market share from our competition. We\u2019ve grown our share at a couple of points per year," says Showers.The School of Hard NOXWhat: Public utility JEA used neural network technology to create an artificial intelligence system it implemented last fall. The system automatically determines the optimal combinations of oil and natural gas the utility\u2019s boilers need to cost-effectively produce electricity given fuel prices and the amount of electricity required. It also ensures that the amount of nitrous oxide (NOx) emitted during the generation process does not exceed government regulations. Why: JEA needed to decrease operating expenses, in particular fuel costs, as oil and gas prices began their precipitous ascent in 2002. Forty percent of JEA\u2019s $1.3 billion budget goes to the purchase of oil and gas to power its boilers, so a small change in the way electricity is produced could send millions of dollars to the bottom line. Technology: Neural network technology models the process of producing electricity. Optimization software from NeuCo determines the right combinations of oil and gas to produce electricity at low cost while minimizing emissions.Cool quotient: JEA, which serves over 360,000 customers in Jacksonville and three neighboring Florida counties, is the first utility in the world to apply neural network technology to the production of electricity in circulating fluidized bed boilers. It built a system that makes decisions based on historical operating data and as many as 100 inputs associated with the combustion process, including air flows and megawatt outputs. The system learns which fuel combinations are optimal by making adjustments to the boiler in real-time; it also forecasts what to do in the future based on specific fuel cost assumptions. "We had issues with oil prices. At the same time, gas prices went from $4 a BTU to over $14. We need to use gas because it decreases emissions. This solution helped us balance all of those items," says Wanyonyi Kendrick, JEA\u2019s CIO. ROI: The project, which IT drove, cost $800,000 and paid for itself in eight weeks. The system reduced the quantity of natural gas that\u2019s used to control NOx emissions by 15 percent, an estimated annual savings of $4.8 million. With natural gas prices at $11 per BTU, JEA expects to save $13 million on fuel in 2006. What\u2019s more, JEA has discovered it can use the new technology applications for its water business.Where the Rubber Meets the RoadWhat: Working with Sandia National Labs, Goodyear\u2019s IT department developed software to design and test tires virtually. In the past, the company built physical prototypes and tested them by driving thousands of miles on tracks. Using a mathematical model, the software simulates tire behavior in different driving conditions so the designer can see how the tire gets pushed, pulled and stretched as it rolls down a road, hits bumps, turns corners, screeches to a halt, and grips the road in wet, dry and icy conditions. Why: Accurately testing prototypes in the physical world requires driving on the tires for thousands of miles; Goodyear wanted to shorten that time to get its products to market more quickly. Three research and development employees advanced the idea of testing prototypes using computer simulations, which could do the job faster.