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The Saga of Research vs Innovation – III

3. Getting the lay of the land
Innovation, as opposed to research that may produce knowledge that can have no relation with what is already available, happens in the market. As such it has to interact with what is in the market to become an Innovation (e.g. to have success and generate revenues).
Hence the importance to know the lay of the land (in Italian we use a curious expression, literally translating as "I know my chicken"…).
If your innovation is about making a process more effective you will first need to know the existing process to understand how to change it (what happens when you try to deploy your stuff to have it becoming an Innovation), if it is about a new product you need to know what regulation exists in that particular market to make the product "sellable" and so on.
In several cases you need to connect to other players that may or may not benefit from your innovation but that are needed to make it fly. Take the example of the iPod. It was a nice device, as several others existing at the time -2001. It had some nice technology "perks", like firewire making songs upload 30 times faster than existing MP3 players that used USB. It provided a nice user experience, with ten hours battery life, a compact size and a captivating design. And it seamlessly connected to iTunes, a program released by Apple in January 2001 that in fact was a re-engineered version of a program acquired from Casady and Green in the year 2000. An example of innovation by acquisition. I still consider the Steve Jobs presentation of the iPod in an anonymous hall one of the best courses on Innovation to date. Listen to it and jot down line by line all the points he is making.
Two years later the iTunes store opened, and that required Apple to convince a number of reluctant players that the digital music required a different set of rules. Apple couldn’t innovate all alone the Digital Music sector. That required technology, both hw and software, it required better batteries, the creation of an ecosystem with willing and unwilling players, it required design skills.  And behold: the only in-house research on technology that found a way into the product was the cable to connect the iPod to the charger/Mac, the Firewire port!
Indeed, getting the lay of the land and connecting the points is part of the work being done by our Business Developers in the EIT ICT LABS.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.