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Technology, innovation and management
Technology, innovation and management

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5.7 Fifth-generation innovation

It is argued that by the early 1990s a new model of the innovation process began to emerge (Rothwell, 1994; Dodgson et al., 2008), which, following Rothwell’s labelling convention, became the fifth-generation innovation process. Figure 6 illustrates the key aspects of this model, which requires managers to respond flexibly to deal with increasing level of risk and uncertainty:

Within the firm we see increasing concern with organisational forms and practices and skill balances that enable the maximum flexibility and responsiveness to deal with unpredictable and turbulent markets. Research, development, design and engineering take place in concurrent iterations, supported by ‘innovation technology’ in a fluid model [that Dodgson et al. refer to as ‘Think, Play, Do’] … The value-creating activities of the firm are linked with suppliers and customers, and all the technological activities in the firm are directed by increasingly coherent and effective innovation strategies.

(Dodgson et al., 2008, p. 64)

Some of the key features of the fifth-generation process – such as technology transfer and open innovation – will be discussed in more detail later in the course.

Figure 6 Fifth-generation innovation process (Source: Dodgson et al., 2008)

In suggesting (and discussing earlier in Section 5.1) that we are currently experiencing a transition from the fifth (IT) to the sixth (life sciences) wave of technological development, there has been a similar debate as to whether a further sixth-generation model of the innovation process has emerged. Unfortunately there is not the space here to enter into that debate. There is, however, one more variant of the innovation process that should be highlighted before concluding this section of the course and looking at innovation management specifically.