How does technology Innovation differ from other forms of innovation? Innovation is a general concept pertaining to value-added novelty in economic and social spheres. But technology innovation refers to the formation of products and processes and advancing them out of technologies. Does it differ from invention? It requires technology invention forming the core of those novel products and processes. For example, Carl Benz’s automobile technology invention has been at the core of the innovation of a range of automobiles. The contribution of technology innovation to the economy and advancing our living standards is enormous. For example, in the global $90 trillion economies, automobile technology innovation alone generates almost $4 trillion in revenue. Due to technological innovation, nations have become far richer than others. Despite the inequality, it has been a blessing for uplifting the quality of living of every human being.
There are many connotations of technology. In this context, we refer to it as applying scientific knowledge for practical purposes. But it does not necessarily mean that all technology inventions have the root in scientific knowledge. There have been many technologies that were invented out of intuition and Craftsmanship or accidental observations. For example, an electric motor or the radio wave was invented out of accidental observation. But each of them demands a flow of scientific knowledge for scaling up to fuel product or Process innovation.
Technology innovation has been our capability of creating increasing Wealth from depleting resources. By the way, technology innovation does not suddenly show up in mature form or keep linearly growing. It takes shape through the profit-making competition. Furthermore, it grows in an episodic form, through Creative waves of destruction—sometimes, taking the shape of Disruptive innovation. Our challenge is to leverage it more for offering a growing quality of living to fellow human beings.
Technology invention and innovation:
For technology innovation, we need technology invention. For example, the electronic image sensor is a technology. This technology is at the core of different types of digital camera innovations. Similarly, multitouch is technology is at the core of user interface innovation.
Irrespective of the greatness, invariably, all technology inventions begin the journey in an embryonic form. For example, light-emitting diode (LED) technology started the journey of emitting faint red light in the 1960s. They need a flow of scientific knowledge for continued advancement for reaching a state for supporting a usable product or process innovation. In some cases, major scientific discoveries are needed to make an invention capable enough to power innovations. For example, a Nobel Prize-winning scientific discovery was needed to mature the LED strong enough to innovate the LED light bulb.
The same technology invention could be useful for both product and process innovations. For example, the electronic image sensor, in addition to powering digital cameras for consumers, is also vital in machine visions for industrial production process innovation.
Technology invention and innovation examples:
Among the notable ones are steam engine, internal combustion engine, photocopying, automobile, electric motor, Transistor, LED, electronic image sensor, flash memory, and many more. Invariably, we do not use technology inventions in their raw form. Instead, we use products innovated out of them. We also use them for innovating processes for producing products.
Many technology innovations carry the same technology. For example, there have been different types of LED light bulbs and automobiles in the market. But all LED light bulbs use the same technology core. Innovators develop market segment-specific products around the chosen technologies. Hence, the advancement of technology improves all innovations. For example, making LED chips more durable leads to longer-lasting different types of LED light bulbs. On the other hand, due to making products more suitable for the customers to get a specific job done better, innovators have been innovating new products and improving already innovated ones.
Disruptive technology and examples:
Nowadays, we have been getting used to the ‘disruptive technology’ phrase. Technology itself does not disrupt anything. Disruption occurs due to the uprising of reinnovation of existing products or new products out of an emerging technology core. For sure, not all technologies can change the technology core of products or processes. Furthermore, all technologies are not equally scalable to fuel new waves as creative destruction forces, leading to cause disruption to existing products and firms.
For a technology to be disruptive, it must be capable enough to fuel reinnovation of existing products or innovation of new products so that those products become a better substitute to existing products. In the beginning, reinnovated or innovated products out of the new technology core may be inferior. Invariably they suffer from the poorer quality and higher costs. But the preferred emerging technology must be amenable to progression in improving the quality and reducing the cost. To be disruptive, this potential capability is vital for making technology innovations or innovations grow and take over the business of targeted existing ones. For example, LED has made reinnovated light bulbs a better alternative causing destruction to filament light bulbs.
For example, innovators attempted to innovate automobiles out of fuel cell and electric battery technologies. But fuel cell was not amenable enough to progress to make fuel cell vehicles disruptive to gasoline automobiles. On the other hand, electric vehicles out of lithium-ion batteries show the possibility of being a creative destruction force to gasoline automobiles.
Sustainable technology examples:
We also categorize certain technologies as sustainable. Unfortunately, no technology is sustainable. Product or process innovations around any technology like digitization or electric batteries demand materials and energy, and they cause pollution. Hence, every technology faces the limit of sustainable diffusion. For this reason, there has been a race for inventing better technologies that consume fewer materials and energy and cause less pollution. For example, LED is more sustainable than filament for producing light. But that does not necessarily mean that LED is sustainable technology for illuminating the world. After a certain level of diffusion, it will face the limit, and the human race will likely invent more sustainable alternatives.
As we mentioned, technology innovation is our only means of creating increasing wealth from depleting resources. It’s also at the core of creating wealth out of ideas. Although scientific knowledge is useful for inventing technologies, many have roots in intuition and craftsmanship. But, invariably, all technologies demand scientific knowledge and engineering for continued growth to fuel technology innovations-whether as new products or processes or improvements of existing ones. Despite the immense benefits, technology innovations may also cause disruption to jobs, firms, and industries; for that reason, underlying technologies should have disruptive capability. There is no doubt that technology invention and innovation are frequently used terminologies. Nevertheless, there has been a lack of clarity about their meanings in certain contexts, resulting in confusion and variations in understanding.
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