Innovation from scientific research

Often, we see amazingly successful products emerging from research. The original research purpose can be entirely different from the eventual commercialized product. You would recall that Post-it notes emerged from a project to discover adhesive. Viagra emerged from heart disease research. Many claim that these innovation were random outcomes. This is an easy assumption because it does not require further discussion.

But we can breakdown the innovation path into two: Demand led or Supply led. We are familiar with demand led innovation because that is what marketers believe in. They think that it is always possible to discover what consumers value and create a product that meets that value. Yet, it is arguable that consumers may not be aware of their future demands. In many instances, disruptive technologies emerge from such supply led innovation.

We must allow scientists to follow their intuition in developing something that may not have clear commercial value. Because of their curiosity, they just might discover something that an entrepreneur can bring to the market years later. Scientific discovery is not always a straight path. In many cases, a seemingly useless discovery can spark off a bunch of ideas.

Existing demands can change. Consumers may decide to weigh product attributes differently over time. Firms have to make incremental changes to meet these incremental or changing demand. But meeting existing demand does not stimulate innovative activities. In an industry where every firm attempts to read demand more accurately, it leads to a commercial bloodbath and unsustainable operations.

Radical technologies create new markets. New markets are less defined but it gives a firm more parameters to grow