The Saga of Research vs Innovation - III

Innovation does not happen in the void. It happens in the market!

3. Getting the lay of the land

Innovation, as opposed to research that may produce knowledge that can have no relation with what is already available, happens in the market. As such it has to interact with what is in the market to become an Innovation (e.g. to have success and generate revenues).

Hence the importance to know the lay of the land (in Italian we use a curious expression, literally translating as "I know my chicken"...).

If your innovation is about making a process more effective you will first need to know the existing process to understand how to change it (what happens when you try to deploy your stuff to have it becoming an Innovation), if it is about a new product you need to know what regulation exists in that particular market to make the product "sellable" and so on.

In several cases you need to connect to other players that may or may not benefit from your innovation but that are needed to make it fly. Take the example of the iPod. It was a nice device, as several others existing at the time -2001. It had some nice technology "perks", like firewire making songs upload 30 times faster than existing MP3 players that used USB. It provided a nice user experience, with ten hours battery life, a compact size and a captivating design. And it seamlessly connected to iTunes, a program released by Apple in January 2001 that in fact was a re-engineered version of a program acquired from Casady and Green in the year 2000. An example of innovation by acquisition. I still consider the Steve Jobs presentation of the iPod in an anonymous hall one of the best courses on Innovation to date. Listen to it and jot down line by line all the points he is making.

Two years later the iTunes store opened, and that required Apple to convince a number of reluctant players that the digital music required a different set of rules. Apple couldn't innovate all alone the Digital Music sector. That required technology, both hw and software, it required better batteries, the creation of an ecosystem with willing and unwilling players, it required design skills.  And behold: the only in-house research on technology that found a way into the product was the cable to connect the iPod to the charger/Mac, the Firewire port!

Indeed, getting the lay of the land and connecting the points is part of the work being done by our Business Developers in the EIT ICT LABS.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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