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Technology, innovation and management
Technology, innovation and management

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2.1.1 Innovation as process

In the UK, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) defines innovation as follows:

Innovation is the process by which new ideas are successfully exploited to create economic, social and environmental value.

(BIS, 2012)

This definition draws our attention towards how innovation happens – ‘the process by which new ideas are successfully exploited’. This is central to the management of technological innovation, and hence to much of this course. The new idea or invention is not by itself enough; it needs to be part of a wider process that realises value. Figure 1 illustrates this process of innovation as a series of activities progressing from ‘idea generation’ (loosely, invention) through to marketing and adoption in the market place (‘diffusion’). This happens in the context of the ‘push’ of new technologies (‘state of the art in technology and production’) and the ‘pull’ of societal and economic demand (‘needs of society and the market place’), which are discussed in Section 5.

Figure 1 The coupling model of innovation (adapted from Rothwell, 1992)

This is a rather stylised and simplified model of innovation. For example, it portrays innovation solely in relation to manufacturing, whereas service innovation currently represents a hugely significant arena. It does, however, encourage us to think of innovation as a complex process. You will also see, later in this course, that it draws on a model of innovation that has undergone significant revision and refinement. For now, though, it serves our purpose of recognising that innovation is a process that happens in both technological and socioeconomic contexts which it both influences and is influenced by.