Innovation and Research have become important tools in the Western welfare states to help address societal challenges. These may include the development of new public services, innovation in the private sector, or a new organisational form. Governments are increasingly recognizing the importance of these two tools. However, their relationship is not a straight-forward one. It can be highly complicated and depends on various factors.
Research is a systematic effort to gain a better understanding of a phenomenon or to solve a specific problem. This work can be carried out using many different types of methods, from large-scale research studies to smaller-scale monitoring. The output of such efforts can be found in a variety of formats, such as publications, teaching initiatives, and databases.
Researchers use innovation as a means to generate new ideas. For example, new scientific instrumentation may create direct opportunities for research. Other innovations may be the result of serendipity. Examples include the development of wearable technologies to meet unmet needs or the invention of penicillin accidentally by Michael Fleming.
Aside from generating ideas, research can contribute to the implementation of innovations. Especially in service provision, it can provide insights into central social processes. Additionally, it can give a firm or institution the ability to evaluate external developments, which legitimizes continued financing.
Researchers may also be able to contribute to empirical challenges. They can inform government policies by providing evidence-based policymaking. In addition, they can help to improve policies that limit the role of research. Although research may not necessarily lead to innovation, it can be a valuable tool for making research-based policymaking possible.
One of the more interesting aspects of research is its contribution to preparing innovations for scale-up and diffusion. This can be done by translating generic concepts into local contexts, identifying unmet needs, or delivering narratives to bolster legitimacy. Finally, innovations can be implemented by leveraging existing knowledge to create new value.
The backstory of innovation is more complicated than the scientific breakthrough that leads to it. As with all things, the right way to look at innovation is not based on a single theory. Different schools of thought define innovation differently, but it generally takes the form of new knowledge, product, or service.
Depending on the level of detail and sophistication, an innovation may or may not be the result of research. Regardless, it is important to distinguish between the two. Most innovation studies have pointed to the value of research as a signal of societal change, but have cautioned against research as the sole driver of innovation.
When comparing innovations to other types of innovations, such as technological or commercial breakthroughs, it is often difficult to determine whether a particular product or service was the result of a novel discovery, a new idea, or a combination of the three. Nevertheless, a number of independently funded research projects have studied such innovations.
Regardless of the type of innovation, research can be an important source of inspiration for innovation. Moreover, it may be a crucial element of a long-term strategy. It can help to uncover unexpected discoveries that spur additional product or service ideas, and even financial benefits for the creators.