The importance of science in innovation

1.Innovation is not just invention 2.Innovation is not a linear-flow process 3.The importance of science in innovation is increasing 4.Innovation involves interaction between many factors •‘Complementary assets’ and ‘appropriability’ 5.Cultures of innovation combine different functions 6.Innovation is usually incremental 7.Many innovations occur through learning by doing and learning by using The module has identified seven key factors that influence and shape the product innovation process. Critically assess the relevance of these factors for the 3M post-it notes case study (Rangananth and Ketteringham 2004). (1500 maximum wordcount ) 3M CASE STUDY: Empirically detailed – emperoval data matches theory What was the big idea – mechanised theory – knowledge based Obscure case – financial benefits on long term studies – generic lesson of the innovation process Temporarily rich Chain of ’innovation’: Research – development – Prototype – Production = Market (Development – Funding Was Withdrawn) No Market for this Product Market pull + technology push Innovation within Finland, two different societies. Senior Management is? – cooperate culture tolerates failure — Rhodes and Wield on Innovation theory and management 7 Key aspects Innovation is not just invention – The discovery of new ideas and artefacts does not drive innovation, nor is it carried out by isolated mad-scientists. The needs of companies often drives even basic-research (eg, military (computer and internet), nuclear power, genetics, biotech, pharmaceuticals etc). The way in which these ideas and artefacts are used depends on their application and implementation which in turn can lead to new innovation and invention processes. This is captured by point 2: Innovation cannot be understood as a linear flow from invention to application – highlighting the importance of implementation as a moment of creativity and innovation – eg, Pirelli case – need to understand what TQM is – basically a contested concept, subject to different interpretations both by academic theorists, managers, consultants and workers – indeed, these interpretations change so it certainly can’t be ‘read-off’ from the basic technology. Of course, this doesn’t mean that science is not important… The importance of science in innovation is increasing as firms require a deeper and broader science base to stay ahead of innovation and to utilize new scientific expertise. For example, new biotech innovations require knowledge of chemistry, physics and engineering, as well as a deeper knowledge of biology itself. EXAMPLE – brachytherapy treatments for prostate cancer. Innovation involves interactions between a number of factors, eg, users. Within the innovating firm, factors critical to successful innovation include areas of expertise not directly connected to innovation, such as distribution, marketing and after-sales support. David Teece refers to these as ‘complementary assets’. EXAMPLE – GE and the electric fridge – marketing, sales, supplier networks, finances to fund mass production etc. These ‘complementary assents’ can also explain why first to market firms do not always capitalize on their inventions – ie. ‘appropriability’ – firms’ ability to appropriate profits from technological advance. Copyright and IPR are often not enough as other firms can emulate technological advance (eg, reverse engineering in high-tech and pharmaceuticals) cf JVC and sharing the knowledge base for VHS, vs, Sony and Betamax – example 2 – 3M post-its and marketing Given the diversity of issues and functions involved in innovation, an innovating firm must combine these together in what Axel Johne calls a ‘culture of innovation’ which is attentive to changes in the marketplace and provides a complete consumer package, combining crucial ‘complementary assets’ such as marketing, distribution and after-sales service, all focused on innovation. Innovation is usually incremental – it rarely involves large step-changes or technological leaps. Even completely new technologies usually involve a series of incremental developments before they appear as a completely new product or process – eg, the fridge again – solved by a series of issues around cooling (water to gas), basic technology (gas or electric), integral motors, more reliable, quieter motors, freezer boxes, auto-defrost etc. Importantly, this means that innovation often follows technological trajectories which are determined both by previous innovation and also by the knowledge accrued in communities of practice or specific firms at the forefront of development. Many innovations occur through learning by doing and learning by using. ie, much innovation occurs as a result of implementation and use. In trying to make an innovation practicable and useful, users will overcome ‘bottlenecks’ (eg, in specific production technologies and interfaces with existing systems) or by finding new applications for technologies ‘on the ground’ (eg, Henry Ford reversing the ‘disassembly line’). Much of this innovating practice involves tacit knowledge – knowledge which is embodied and implicit rather than codified or explicit, such as riding a bike or an engineer’s knowledge of tools and materials. This has led to increasing strategic partnerships between suppliers and customers, as customers innovate and suppliers incorporate those innovations – eg, SAP – front-line interface developed by user is often incorporated into the next roll-out. We may look at this a little more later in the course in relation to end-user innovation. —

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