The Society of Innovation

    Innovation: A multilateral phenomenon
    Innovation: A factor of competitiveness
    Innovation: European example I
    Innovation: European example II
    Innovation: European example II
    Innovation: Example IV


A multilateral phenomenon


The term ‘innovation’ is rather vague and ambiguous: it is currently used to signify both the process and the results. According to the definition proposed by OOSA in the “Frascati Handbook”, innovation is the conversion of an idea into a commercial product or service, the effective method of production/distribution, the new way of rendering social services. The above definition refers to innovation as process. However, when the world ‘innovation’ signifies a new or an improved product equipment or a successful service, emphasis is put on the ‘result’ part of the definition. Unfortunately, this ambiguity can some times cause confusion: e.g. when discussing about the transfer of innovation, we either mean the transfer of the process, that is the methods or practices used, or the transfer of the results, such as the new products. Being able to see difference is of great importance.

When the first meaning of the term (innovative process) is used, emphasis is put on the way we perceive and apply innovation into practice (creativity, marketing, research and development, planning, production and distribution). This does not involve a linear process or an automatic succession of clearly distinct phases, but rather a frame of interactions and ‘retrogressive movements’ among various factors. This is why the mechanisms of interaction in an enterprise, as well as the networks connecting the enterprise with its surrounding (other enterprises, know - how centers, research laboratories etc) become more and more important in everyday practice. The relationship with the users, the analysis of society demand, the prompt prediction of the markets needs are equally - not to say more - important with the excellent mastery of technology.

When the second meaning of the term (innovation as a result) is used, emphasis is put on the new product, the new approach or new service. So, on the one hand, we may have a radical innovation (such as a new vaccine or a compact disc) and on the other hand, we may have ‘the improving innovation’ which implies the improvement of already existing products, methods or services (for example, the supply of cars with airbags).

The introduction of new products, methods or services can take place in every sector of activities: traditional or new, public or private, industrial, agricultural etc. Also, innovation may concern public utility services: the National Heath Service, the organization of state schools etc. Innovation greatly promotes and is promoted by the evolution of social behaviors and lifestyles (for example, compare the increase in number of new products or services, which was a result of an increase of interest athletics and recreational activities: Mediterranee Club, snow-surfing etc., and conversely, the change of athletic practices and performances as a result of the apperance of new products for climbing, cycling, surfing and so on).

Innovation is not necessarily a synonym of high technology, despite the fact that it appears more and more in industrial equipments, materials, software and methods.

Innovation is mostly a result of combination of known data (e.g. video) or of few new uses (walkman) or even of creativity put forward when designing new products. The Bang and Olutsen Company (Denmark) was able to tackle its huge problems, thanks to innovation. Its turnover was stagnant during the period 1990 - 1993, and it was forced to fire 700 out of 3.000 workers. In order to face these difficulties it adopted the moto: “A substantial innovation every two years is important for development”. An innovative process does not have a technological character only: in the Bang and Olyfsen company design is considered to be more important that mechanical engineering, for example. A reason for this is that design is one of the components of soft investments that can ‘make the difference’, especially for products of ‘high quality and cost’.

Nevertheless, the technological component remains equally important, especially in planning, production and distribution of products and services. Being competent both scientifically and technically is of vital importance for:

  1. the implementation of technological inventions
  2. the comprehension and use of new technologies, whatever their origin.

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As far as the methods or processes followed are concerned, innovation allows for the increase of productivity parameters by increasing the production and/or decreasing the cost. It allows for an appropriate adjustment of prices and for the increase of quality and reliability of products. Competitiveness renders to this pursuit of productivity a constant necessity: successive improvements guarantee that an enterprise will remain competitive. When enterprises change their equipment, they subsequently renew and improve their methodology and organization On the other hand, radical changes (which are not very frequent) alter the methods of production drastically and they sometimes make the introduction of new products possible.

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A medium - sized business relies on training in order to innovate

Allevard Aciers, the first and unique company in producing steel springs, supplies the European Market with the 20% of these products. However in order to consolidate its position, it has to increase its market share from 20 to 30% of the European Market and this become the indisputable leader of the kind.

The enterprise has to enhance its productive abilities, mainly by automatizing the production process. In this way, an investing program of 40 million francs is annually scheduled for the modernization of facilities. However, this progress should take place without risking the competitive advantages gained by the company, that is flexibility and quality.

Thus, Allevard Aciers constructs a cohesive policy of development of the human resources, year by year. It helps internal social relationships evolve, it forms partnership relations with companies, it participates in the European programs (mainly the FORCE and the EUROTECNEC), it unifies the local Media as far as issues of training are concerned. It seeks and finds solutions. In a few words, it innovates and thus it becomes an integral part of Europe.

However, in the summer of 1992, the company faces many problems due to an excessive bulk of orders. It was forced to cut down on expenditure and faced the taking of technical unemployment measures as a strong possibility. The policy of handling human resources was not the right one and what ever was gained all over the years was now at stake. Nevertheless, the enterprise was more able to adjust to the changes. Thanks to the knowledge

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A group of Dutch Small and Medium sized Enterprises diagnose their innovative competence

The Center of Innovation of the Southwest Netherlands has expressed the willingness to support the efforts that aim at developing innovation on the SME. The staff of the SME is between 20 and 100 persons. The aforementioned enterprises use the traditional ‘rules of production’. However the new ‘ready to use’ products create a relentless competition. Thus, the effort to meet the new needs of the population, as well as the identification with the new urban models involve additional expenses. The efficiency of most of these enterprises is extremely low.

Thanks to the pilot initiative for the incorporation of the new technologies (which was implemented by the aforemential of Dutch Center of Innovation a group of 18 enterprises accepted to participate in a series of seminars organized by specialized counselors. They, also accepted to diagnose on a two - day basis, their financial state, goals and organization. The objective was to decide on the tendencies of the sector and to give a particular place to every enterprise, according to its progress.

From the discussions and the seminars that took place a controversial picture came up. Despite the fact that the staff of the SME worked hard, the non-existence of business plan of action made it impossible for the employees efforts to be fruitful. After a thorough look on the necessary functions, recommendations were given on the implementation of new methods as far as the purchase and delivery of materials, the quality, the communication etc.

Today these recommendations (already put in practice) have contributed to an increase in the zeal of the staff for work.

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The pilot project ‘BIOMERIT’ - A European Network in the field of biotechnology

BIOMERIT which is situated in Cork (Ireland), is a network that numbers about 33 members, coming from 7 different countries. During the first three years of its active life, BIOMERIT organized more than 14 training seminars, in the field of biotechnology, in which 900 persons took part Moreover, it brought fresh ground since it took under consideration not only the needs of students and researchers (in order to familiarize them with the projects of the European Networks), but also the needs of enterprises for the business and small - medium sized enterprises and industries.

For example, in Bresia (Italy), an agricultural business, that numbered 7 workers, was facing many problems and decided to change and modernize its facilities. It was forced to produce foods without chemicals and additives, in order to satisfy the consumer’s needs. So, it had to turn to biotechnology.

The owners attended a seminar on the protection of crops. Thanks to the excellent organization of this seminar, the Italian owners were able to meet the needs of the market just in one week’s time.

Quality Control System (Force Project)

A consortium of Spanish, Irish and Portuguese enterprises implemented a training program with the objective to meet the needs of the European Media, in what concerns the implementation of Quality control Programs. The training program aimed at making people realize that quality is an integral part of administration and an instrument of handling human resources. Additionally the project contributed to the spread and implementation of the Quality Control Models ISO 9000 in various European Regions.

The aim of the project addressed the people in charge of quality control for their enterprises. A series of materials for distanced training was constructed and studies were implemented on video. These studies showed that the enterprises used and implemented quality control methods, quite successfully.

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Innovation can be successful if all the powers of the enterprise are put into practice. Conversely it can be unsuccessful if this cohesion is not ensured: this becomes evident when considering the RCA case, a great American group in the sector of electronic products. At the end of the 70’s, the research section of the group designed new products that were not supported by the commercial section. The result was to distribute them in the market very cautiously. And although RCA was technologically more advanced than other groups, it didn’t manage to survive due to this internal conflict.