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

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8 Part 1: 7 Key points of Part 1

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  • Invention and innovation are ongoing processes not one-off events. Products have a history of invention, design and improvement, which can be over a surprisingly long period.

  • It can be difficult to identify a product's original inventor. Often different people are working on developing a technology simultaneously.

  • It can take imagination to foresee how a new technology might be used, particularly for potential financial backers.

  • To succeed an innovation needs a competitive advantage over existing technologies or products.

  • Research and experiment into one technology can contribute to the development of another spin-off technology.

  • Innovative products can take time to become widely used. However in recent years the timescales for diffusion have shortened.

  • The success of an innovation depends on regular improvements to its performance, reliability and design coupled with price reduction. This is usually achieved by further innovations in supporting technology, manufacturing processes, component performance, new materials, and so on.

  • A group of early, sometimes specialised users of an innovation can play an important part in giving momentum to its sales.

  • Affordability of innovative products is linked to the cost of manufacture and the relative affluence of buyers.

  • There are also fashions in innovative products – shaped by marketing and advertising – which can stimulate demand. Cultural factors can also have an influence on innovation and consumption.

  • As an innovation spreads it may change from being a novelty or luxury to a necessity for people.

  • Governments can affect the environment for innovation in particular areas of technology, which can lead to lower prices and the faster introduction of an innovation. Accordingly political and regulatory factors can play a part in the innovation process.

  • To be granted the protection of a patent an invention must be new, involve an inventive step, be capable of industrial application and not excluded.

  • There are factors that can suppress or delay the spread of an innovation – patent disputes over ownership; resistance from people with a vested interest in established technologies; protective inertia in business and institutional structures resisting radical change.