The Innovation Landscape

Presentation by David Hughes

Many people think research is the same as innovation. It is certainly the case that some research offers exciting potential. Take for example the latest work of Craig Venter (first to sequence human genome) using the new technology of synthetic biology. He is aiming to modify the gene structure of algae to get them to convert carbon dioxide via photosynthesis to produce hydrocarbons which can be processed in existing refineries to produce diesel fuel. As yet this research has had no impact and so raises the question as to whether that is innovation. On the other hand there are numerous examples of current products and services that have had an impact and been commercially successful but have not come directly from scientific research. The genius of these products often lies in how they have brought together existing technologies in novel ways.


But ideas alone do not make successful innovation, leadership and management are very important. Proctor & Gamble is widely recognised as a leading adopter of open innovation ideas but this change required strong leadership from the CEO at the time, Alan (AG) Lafley. He put open innovation at the forefront of his strategy by broadening their understanding of innovation in terms of how their customers view it. So branding, design, supply chain, business models and cost effective product development are all important aspects of the P&G definition of innovation. What is innovation then? ‘Innovation’ has been used to mean so many different things so for this presentation I have chosen to use the elegant definition proposed by Scott Anthony in his latest book1 – “something different that has impact”.


I am sure that most people, if asked to say the top three most innovative companies in the world, would put Apple near the top of their list. But why is that? The products don’t appear to be the output of breakthrough research. However, they do appear to satisfy a user need and as such create value for the customer. And in return they create substantial value for Apple. Again we see that successful innovation puts the customer centre stage in planning new products and services.


So this leads me to suggest that whether you are a large company or a small company, in the manufacturing sector or service sector, the opportunities for innovation occur across all areas of how to create and bring new products and services to market. The presentation gives examples of how the innovation landscape is changing and the opportunities that opens up.


Four areas are highlighted:

  • The pace of change and need for companies to put in place the most efficient processes for new product development, supply chains and how they go to market
    New manufacturing opportunities brought about by digitisation of design and manufacturing enabling new possibilities without expensive investment in facilities.
  • Customer focused innovation to get a greater understanding of unmet customer wants and how customer value products and services.
  • An finally we will look at how new business models can transform traditional markets

Building on these ideas, the workshop will help participants to create the right environment to enable broad innovation opportunities to flourish in their organisations.