Innovation in its simplest form can be termed as something new or newly introduced into the market. Innovation in the business field is quite necessary since it forms the backbone of a company’s growth and that of the economy as a whole. Innovation is the success of every business and must be managed effectively and efficiently (Limerick, 2002).
The ever changing technology and instant global communication have made it easier for companies to find answers to some problems they encounter and more so come up with innovations to improve on the current ones. Companies are also faced with pressures arising from global competition and by this; most of them are seeking the need to manage their innovations. Companies are nowadays attracting and managing innovations by having rewards or prizes for individuals within the company who manages to come up with brilliant and innovative concepts. This will give the employees motivation to come up with a new innovation since they are to receive reward for the work done. Also with a price competition, a wide range of people are encouraged to come up with the most creative innovations (Afuah, 2003).
Is Britain losing ground in technological innovation?
Over the years Britain have been ahead as the leading innovators but they still lag the capability to develop that idea into a revenue powerhouse. This is seen by various innovations which have their roots in Britain. Britain has shown its innovative potential by having within it, more than 100 Nobel science prizes this shows that there is a lot of untapped innovation which can be tapped easily through creation an enabling environment for innovation to take place.
Many great innovations are being sold by to other companies who in turn produce the innovation in large scale hence acquiring more profit from a single innovation. In the previous years, great innovations have originated from Britain but very few of them have been commercially reproduced from there, for instance innovations such as the fiber optic cable, computers and body scanner among others have been bought by foreign companies who use the technology to commercialize the idea as if it is part of their creative ideas (Brown, 2008).
Britain is indeed losing their ground in technology especially during this era where new economies are coming up. Countries such as China, Brazil, India, and Russia (BRIC countries) are slowly taking over the economy. Countries such as china and India are using their large population to provide labor force and market for the new products and at the same time, these countries are using most of their resources to support new innovation, therefore, they have become the leading source of innovation.
According to the Ft analysis of patent board, Britain’s technological innovation is gradually falling, this is evident because in 2007 Britain was at 1.9% in its ranking up from 3.2%. This shows that less and less innovation is coming from Britain. Britain was ranked number six with France; they were also behind China, India, japan, Germany and U.S. being the leading (Brown, 2008).
The lack of large technology oriented companies in Britain has contributed to the slow development of medium size companies. This is because, if the larger companies would have existed, they would have created a conducive environment for small businesses to come up such as they would have subcontracted them jobs which would foster their existence and growth (David Connell, 2010).
An example of a case study to show how companies are selling out without realizing their full potential is, Autonomy Corporation was the largest Britain software company until it was bought for 6.7 billion Euros by Hewlett-Packard. Autonomy Corporation was started in 1996, in 2010 the company experiences an increase in revenue of $870m, and these figures were up by 18% in the previous year. Though its management were talented they lacked bandwidth, this also coupled by the lack of understanding of the software business hence devaluing of the company’s shares, it led to its sell-out (Guardian, 2011).
Another example is the acquisition made by Japanese vehicle manufacturers on the British Leyland company which at one time was the third largest manufacturer of vehicles in the world. The UK car industry failed and it paved way for foreign companies such as Toyota and Nissan to rein the British market (David Connell, 2010).
Contribution of geography and ambition towards Britain’s failure to realize the full economic potential of technology innovation
Studies show that Britain companies greatly suffer from lack of ambition that they can grow and become a leading producer of a certain technology. Most companies usually sell out early and fail to reach their ultimate goal (Smith, 2010). This is evident by a case study of Pi Research in 1986; Tony Purnell a PHD research student was carrying out his regular research at the basement of his house. He came up with an idea for a vehicle wind tunnel system and control system which on presentation to the Penske a top truck rental company in the U.S., the owner decided to fund his project to the tune of 80,000 Euros. Though this may see as a small innovative idea generated in a basement, with its development and few modification it was worth a lot more, this shows how much scientist in Britain are not motivated enough towards implementing an innovative project to capacity (David Connell, 2010).
What the government do to help British companies to convert creative prowess into big business
The British government can help to reinstate Britain’s innovative culture through coming up with various programs to stimulate the new innovation and strengthen the existing ones. These strategies include having a rigorous funding process for all businesses and innovations, creation of conducive infrastructure and market for the resources, and lowering the cost of production which would as a result decrease the market price hence market for the product (Afuah, 2003).
The government can also promote innovation through increasing its support of innovation conducted in various institutions all over Britain such as Oxford University, Cambridge, and London University. Examples include the Cambridge consultants developed by Cambridge university engineering graduate, the CADCentre or AVEVA a government funded research institute for computer graphics and lastly there is the Cambridge Processing Unit which operated as an R&D institute under the name Olivetti Research Laboratory. All these examples are government funded institution which played active roles in innovation and to the growth of Britain’s economy (David Connell, 2010).
The government should ensure that the innovations are in accordance with the company’s key strategies, to prevent the company from diverting its fundamental resources and destroying its visions. The level of innovation to be achieved by a company is determined by the current its performance, its future expectations and its likelihood to tolerate risks, which may be incurred as a process. In product innovation, a company may improve its innovation and even enable it to commercialize its production by extending its products range; this may be a silent form of innovation to keep the company in business longer than others. Most technology companies can save on much of the resources they spend on innovations by encouraging process improvement of some of their products and extending their product range (Zhang, 2010).
The government can also facilitate new companies both small and large who would want to penetrate the market with their current range of products by supporting them to acquire new sales and manufacturing capabilities. In case the business is to solve a key issue or a crisis, then new capabilities and resources might need to be used too. In addition, the government should also create a conducive environment for companies which are starting up operations or those that have merged or acquired one another, to acquire new resources, ideas, capabilities and leadership who would stir up innovation. (Alexy, 2012).
The British government can also facilitate innovation by assisting some of these companies and consultancy firms to cushion some of the risks they might encounter during their initiation of the innovation till its implementation. This is seen by the different types of risks come with the different types of innovation strategies and projects. Therefore, the government should have a balanced portfolio of innovation projects which should be adopted when assessing the risk factors involved and the number of ideas or innovation managed at any one time (Ron Adner, 2010). Many consultancy firms which have developed in the East of England have a lot of untapped ideas which go untested as a result of the huge risk that comes with their development.
The government should also encourage training within the companies to ensure that proper channels are followed when introducing a new innovation into the business. This is because innovation should be integrated into the company’s strategies at all levels. Innovation and ideas are normally not tied to a specific department in the organization, it can originate from anywhere. Innovation can originate from the following possible sources; these include formal R&D process, employee suggestion scheme, continuous improvement programs, quarterly innovation workshops, employment strategies and annual business planning. All these innovation forms of innovation sources need to be collated, coordinated and managed effectively and efficiently as any other core business process. Therefore, most successful innovation companies need to have an ‘innovation hub’ where they collate and coordinate all innovative ideas presented to them (Alexy, 2012).
Creative processes and analysis can be used by businesses to stimulate new ideas into four basic areas, they include; process, business, product and market innovation. Process innovation entails improvement made or changes made to the internal processes of a business or a company. Business innovation also consists of a new business or supply chain models. On the other hand, service or product innovation entails a new way of providing a service or a product. Market innovation is a situation where a business has the task of creating a new customer base (Zhang, 2010).
When the government funds a certain innovation or scientific research, it should have representatives at the company or institution incharge of it to ensure that all ideas presented are scrutinized, and those irrelevant to the company’s objective dismissed. All ideas and innovation are to be screened so that they can meet all the five criteria used for them to be approved, these include; value, suitability, acceptable, feasible, and enduring (Shane, 2004).
All innovations and ideas presented from different sources should have tangible benefit to the business. Some ideas and innovations may be have good principle but at the same time add very minimal or no value to the business now or in the future. The ideas or innovations should be suitable in that, it should go hand in hand with the strategies put forward in the business and its current situation. Through these criteria, those ideas and innovation which are potential destruction can be tossed off so as to save on the business resources and to help it from diverting its core focus (Shane, 2004). But still even if the idea is not suitable, it may be still be put into productive use through outsourcing under license to third party or even passing it off as a separate business entity.
Ideas and innovation should be acceptable for all stakeholders. Acceptability has been faced by challenges since it involves masses opinion. Most innovations and ideas sometimes fail to take off because of barriers such as office politics and long bureaucratic nature of the business among others (Danneels, 2002). Some of these barriers pose a major setback to internally produced innovations. The innovations presented should be feasible in that for them to be used by the business, the business must have sufficient resources and time to deliver the product. Feasibility also implies that the innovation can be managed efficiently within the existing budget, and with the existing skills available in the business. Failure to address these issues will result to the innovation not being executed within the given timeline hence being implemented when it is no longer required. Lastly, innovations and ideas should be enduring. This implies that, the innovation should be sustainable and should have the ability to last both short- and long-term (Afuah, 2003). The innovation long-term gain should be worth the short-term pain the business has to go through while introducing the product into the market.
The government should ensure that there is active commitment in the company from those who hold the top management level. For innovation to succeed there should be visible leadership whereby the innovations are not to be used for their own benefit but that of the business prosperity (Smith, 2010). It is important that the top management should be evaluated to ensure that they do not have other motives such as selling the company or innovation to the highest bidder.
The government should encourage small and large firms to develop a culture among the employees which promotes innovation as part of their daily activities. The process of coming up with an innovation idea should be natural as all other business operations (Smith, 2010).
As a strategy by the government to convert Britain’s innovation prowess into large scale, it should ensure that it utilizes all methods of tapping innovation be it using an innovation hub or use of the skunk works. Innovation hub can be used to pool all innovations together at its initial stages. While, the’skunk works’ concept is where the government offers reward for ideas and innovation presented and found to be successful (Zhang, 2010).
The government should ensure that all innovations project especially those it funds are regularly supervised so as to prevent utilization of resources on other projects which are not in line with the company’s or institution’s strategies. (Limerick, 2002).
All in all, innovation in a business is a core process and is vital to the growth and success of a company/business. For success to be achieved, companies should have innovations which conform to the strategies of the company. In as much as the innovations can be available, there is need for government to come up with strategies which will enable companies and institution to develop these ideas for the benefit of a country. Some of the strategies which can be used to motivate innovative ideas and retaining them is by; facilitation of rewards to those who come up with viable innovations, creation of conducive environment for innovation development and implementation and creation of market for the finished products. With all efforts channeled towards tapping, creation, implementation and exploitation of innovation, then countries like Britain will still remain one of the biggest innovators in the world.
AFUAH, A. 2003. Innovation Management: Strategies, Implementation, and Profits, New York and Oxford, Oxford University Press.
ALEXY, O. & REITZIG, M. 2012. Managing the business risks of open innovation. McKinsey Quarterly, 17-21.
BROWN & HELEN 2008. Knowledge and innovation: a comparative study of the U.S.A., the UK, and Japan London Routledge.
DANNEELS, E. 2002. The Dynamics of Product Innovation and Firm Competences. Strategic Management Journal, 23, 1095-1121.
DAVID CONNELL & JOCELYN PROBERT 2010. Exploding the Myths of UK Innovation Policy: How ‘Soft Companies’ and R&D Contracts for Customers Drive the Growth of the Hi-Tech Economy. UK Innovation Research Centre.
GUARDIAN.CO.UK. 2011. Hewlett-Packard in Â£7bn takeover of UK software firm The Guardian.
LIMERICK, D., CROWTHER, F. & CUNNINGTON, B. 2002. Managing the new organisation: collaboration and sustainability in the postcorporate world, Allen & Unwin.
LYYTINEN, K. & ROSE, G.M. 2003. The Disruptive Nature of Information Technology Innovations: The Case of Internet Computing in Systems Development Organizations. MIS Quarterly, 27, 557-596.
RON ADNER & RAHUL KAPOOR 2010. Value creation in innovation ecosystems: how the structure of technological interdependence affects firm performance in new technology generations. Strategic Management Journal 31, 306 — 333.
SHANE, S.A. & ULRICH, K.T. 2004. Technological Innovation, Product Development, and Entrepreneurship in Management Science. Management Science, 50, 133-144.
ZHANG, H., SHU, C., JIANG, X. & MALTER, A.J. 2010. Managing Knowledge for Innovation: The Role of Cooperation, Competition, and Alliance Nationality. Journal of International Marketing, 18, 74-94.
SMITH & DAVID 2010. Exploring Innovation, London, McGraw-Hill.
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