The Future Of Innovation In The Industrial Context

Prof Axel Thallemer

There is no new product development without raising new questions to (un)known problems. Through analyzing weak points balanced with strengths, new opportunities are being discussed against impending risks. Answers are at first hand less important than right questions. From those scenarios possible fields of innovations may be claimed. These fields have to be compared with competitors’ products or components in the business areas targeted.

Innovation is not comprising new looks for old technologies. Styling appearances for the mere sake of continuing the sales support of marketing or advertising departments does not belong in this category at all. Currently this may be perfectly experienced in car industry. A product, which has overcome itself by having incorporated less and less essential new ideas, is fading from public interest. Platforms and components are widely shared, leaving the product as mere embodiment of the brand. The only real differentiation is the look, since the functionality and reliability are no longer distinctive features. Same is applicable for consumer goods. Coffee machines, toaster, juicer for instance all rely much more on styling and brand than on actual innovation. The criteria of the proper use of the term “Innovation” has to be measured by new scrutiny:

Is the new object doing something any better than a previous solution? Is the prospective new thing more complicated to achieve this goal? Is this human artefact reliable and showing long-lasting performance? Is the whole process around the new product or component or service sustainable? Are the materials recyclable? How much energy in total is being used – lost – for manufacturing? How much energy is incorporated in the material chosen? (Think of ecological and social side effects of harvesting diamonds, gold, silver, plastic or uranium … aluminium; – the latter solidified electricity!) The proper material has to be chosen on the purpose of the human artefact, which shall incorporate the intended innovation. Both materials and processes are predetermining the looks of the product or component in a widespread manner. Materials as well as processes have to be selected also on criteria of sustainability and recyclability. Relatively late in new product development under the scope of innovation, the shape is coming into the process of determining the artefact. Predefined, as mentioned before by the purpose of its innovation, materials, processes, environmental concerns and technological constraints are driving the look of the newly created object. No shape is distinct of purpose, nature of innovation and its inherent materialization. Real innovation – as defined here – is very rarely occurring in human artefacts, processes or services. Mostly one is dealing with styling existing technical packages under the auspices of brand or no-brand! Future innovation has to start with critical questioning and questioning over and over again before prematurely even thinking of giving any answers. After thorough analyses purpose-driven gestalt materialized via processes and environmental technologies will shape future innovation. Since mankind is based primarily on energy, mobility and control, it will be of utmost importance gaining inspiration from nature inductively – not for copying role models – for future innovation!

Article © 2009 Prof Axel Thallemer. All rights reserved.

about the author...

Prof Axel Thallemer

Prof Axel Thallemer

affiliation:   Airena

position:  President

country:  Germany

area of interest:  product development process, industrial capital goods

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Prof Axel Thallemer

The Fluidic Muscle

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Water: Unity of Art and Science

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Air / Luft: Unity of Art and Science

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Design Dictionary: Perspectives on Design Terminology

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Der Ingenieur und seine Designer: Entwurf technischer Produkte

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