Within the broad field of innovation, there are several recurring themes and concerns, some of which – eco-innovation, open innovation, technology transfer – will be addressed later in the course. Here we briefly introduce some of these themes to give a sense of the contemporary innovation research landscape. However, before embarking on this, and on the course more generally, a word of warning; as one researcher has put it ‘the language of innovation suffers from a rich vocabulary’ (Linton, 2009, p. 729). As we noted in Section 2, in the field of innovation, terminology is not always used consistently. Some terms may be disputed, and the same, or very similar, phenomena can be described in different ways. Some writers are very precise in their terminology as they try to clarify what they see as important differences in the world. The ways in which terms are used may change over time. This inconsistency in language reflects an inherently complex and multifaceted phenomenon, with features that are open to debate among researchers and practitioners.
There are two reasons for exploring this further here, however. First, it provides you with further insights into the ways in which innovation may be viewed as you work your way through this course and read more widely on innovation. Secondly, distinction between various types and aspects of innovation are important because they often reflect differences in the practices needed to encourage and sustain innovation. We also highlight some aspects of innovation (for example, social innovation and frugal innovation) that have emerged more recently as being significant. Taken together this material should therefore further supplement your ability to critically evaluate subject matter about and related to innovation and innovation management.