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

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Invention and innovation: An introduction

5.1 Introduction to key concepts

Before I go any further I will establish the meaning of some of the key concepts that you will encounter throughout this unit.

The key concepts elaborated in this unit are:

  • inventor

  • invention

  • design

  • product champion

  • entrepreneur

  • improver

  • innovation

  • dominant design

  • robust design

  • lean design

  • radical innovation

  • incremental innovation

  • sustaining innovation

  • disruptive innovation

  • process innovation

  • diffusion and suppression

  • intellectual property and patents.

Although innovation is the term applied to one particular stage, it is also common to talk about the whole process from invention to diffusion as the innovation process.

To illustrate these concepts I will use the example of a significant invention with which you are familiar and that has come to symbolise the inspired moment at the heart of invention – the electric light. This example also illustrates the range of factors behind the success of one of the most famous inventors of all time, Thomas Edison. The irony, as you will discover, is that there was no clear ‘Eureka!’ moment in this invention. It was the product of sheer hard work and demonstrated Edison's famous saying in a newspaper interview, ‘Genius is 1 per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration’.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371