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The Saga of Research vs Innovation – VIII

8. Clocking innovation
The go-to-market decision is typical of innovation. An innovator, a company, carefully decides when it is the right time to hit the market. This depends on several factors, like when the announcement can have the best media coverage, what competitors are doing and are likely to do, how well the current product is selling and how much a new product will chew into present sales, how technology is going to evolve and influence performance and BoM (Bill of Materials),…
There is no corresponding go-to-market for research, with the exception of waiting a bit in case of some major announcement for a good stage (like a major conference).
This is why research results are like rain squalls, happening everywhere (almost everywhere, but this is true for rain squalls as well) at any time, whilst major innovation announcements happen at very specific times, they are anticipated by rumours and create strong expectation, quite like a hurricane.
Of course a significant, and successful, innovation has an avalanche effects stimulating copycats and these follow ups are “clocked” by the leading innovating companies.
Depending on how good these copycats are, and how much they are able to swing the marketplace their own way, they can force the timetable on the innovating company that started it all.
A real innovating company has the capability to maintain its own timetable without being forced to alter it because of copycats. This requires a multi rooted innovation: it is not just about a feature made possible by the product, it is, most of the time, a feature that requires implicit knowledge, hard to copy, and the concurrence of several factors, like controlling the supply chain, controlling the interface (through patents) and so on.
Controlling the timetable is what makes a difference in revenues and margins, that avoids shifting the competition on price.
Copycats always force the original innovators to move forward to maintain their leading edge but they should not rewrite their agenda. Of course, this seldom happen, and indeed copycats may force a new tack and one of them might even replace the original innovation to become the leading one.
This does not happen in the research field where research results stimulate new ideas and foster new research but without affecting, basically, anyones agenda.
The “timelime” is a crucial factor in innovation, it is not in research. In innovation you have to be right on time, releasing a product for a market that is not ready to buy it results in a double loss: it is not generating revenues and it is providing competitors knowledge that may come back to haunt you.
Research results are never too soon: they will increase the knowledge vault and will gain the author a publication and plenty of references, which is what matters to her.
An innovation that gets late to the market is completely useless, since the market has already found its own way to satisfy its needs. On the other hand a research result that increases the knowledge (i.e. that creates new knowledge) has a value of its own. You can still publish your paper since it presents “novel” results.

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.