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Invention and innovation: An introduction
Invention and innovation: An introduction

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12.4 Coupling model

There are examples where either technology or the market appears to be more significant in stimulating invention but the majority of innovations involve a creative coupling of technological and market factors. In some respects successful innovation is a case of the survival of the fittest. Failure can come both from not getting the technology right and from misjudging the market. Success is more likely if the focus is not too one-dimensional but rather a balance between technology and market considerations.

But a key challenge with invention and innovation is that both technology and the market are changing constantly. What is technically unachievable today may be possible in a few years time due to scientific advances, sometimes in an unrelated field. Likewise what cannot be sold today may come to be regarded as a necessity by future consumers.

The relationships between advancing science and technology and a changing market are complex. The skill of the companies and the people operating at the interfaces between these areas is to make the connection between technological and market possibilities. It can be a creative process similar to the associative thinking involved in the original invention itself, and is often the province of the entrepreneur.

This coupling between technology and market needs is important at every stage of the innovation process, from the first flash of inspiration, through the entire research, design and development work to the introduction of the new product or process onto the market.

Although the innovation process clearly contains both technology and market elements, any model of the process has to introduce some sense of interaction and growing complexity. It must have feedback loops and a variety of links both between science, technology and the market place, and between innovating firms and the outside world. Rothwell's coupling model starts to suggest this complexity (Figure 57).

Figure 57
Figure 57 Roy Rothwell's coupling model of innovation (*in later papers amended to ‘research, design and development’) (Source: adapted from Rothwell, 1992)

Activity 12

Do you have a personal example of market pull not generating a product – in other words do you need a product that doesn't exist, or a better product than the one that does exist?