The Six Departments of Innovation

Machine Design, Technology, Innovation
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Does your company need to rebalance innovation organizations?

Bradford Goldense | May 23, 2017

For the past decade, which translates into two to five product cycles for most industries, broad-based innovation has been on the decline. The research of Dr. Robert Cooper, the creator of Stage-Gate, indicates that companies typically spent almost 60% of R&D funds on New-to-the-World, New-to-the-Market, and New Product Lines. The remaining 40% went to Additions to Existing Product Lines and Improvements to Existing Products. These figures are now inverted. Most companies now focus on extending the life of existing products and assets, and they will until GDP clearly outpaces inflation again. There are now indications that top-line pressures may lessen in a year. Let’s get a jump on likely good news by revisiting the alternatives companies have to spur innovation.

Just about everything companies do to innovate falls into six groups: Basic Research, Applied Research, Advanced Development, Product Development, Product Enhancement, and Product Invention. The first five categories are a continuum of capabilities and/or technologies progressing from the nascent to the mature. Product Invention, aka Skunk Works and other names, spans nascent to mature by itself.

In Basic Research (BR), discovery targets are broad. Scientists and researchers look for capabilities that have “some efficacy” with an articulated broad market or targeted need. Some BR is truly blue sky, but that has decreased over the past few decades as few can afford it. BR often just rules out what won’t work and identifies technologies or capabilities that might work.

Applied Research (AR) typically has a more specific target. There is some known problem, opportunity, or application area in which there is a possible economic gain or social improvement. AR picks up by taking things that might work and attempts to narrow down the feasible technical alternatives.

Advanced Development (AD) takes the feasible technical alternatives and…Continue reading…

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