The significance of research in innovation

Research is an area that needs to get a lot more glamorous focus; something it has not received outside academic circles in the past

Bhavna Dalal
Updated: Dec 4, 2018 05:45:35 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

India is working hard to bring in an expansive culture of innovation through government initiatives, organisations, schools, and universities.

So far, the problem has been that all these different areas have not been talking to each other much in the past. Working in silos have prevented interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge, information, and insights.

Cutting-edge disruptive innovation requires a passion and dedication which means looking beyond selling to make money, and genuinely making attempts to change the lives of people. Research is an area that needs to get a lot more glamorous focus; something it has not received outside academic circles. One of the reasons the US has enjoyed supremacy is due to the respect research experiences at its universities.

Academic research is one of the most fundamental methods for innovating. Research is the process of discovering something that has happened in the past, so how can it be connected to innovating?

The answer is that research is a fundamental building block of the process of idea development. Some critical points in the idea life-cycle, where research can be leveraged are problem development, market research, competitive research, and feasibility and requirements study.

The problem is, it is difficult to predict all of the outcomes or benefits that research might lead to. It is equally impossible to anticipate all the types of research knowledge that will contribute to a transformative innovation in the future. Another thing that has kept us wary of research is it’s link to failures. However, these factors should not stop organisations from pursuing it.

According to a research paper – Furthering America’s Research Enterprise, published in 2014 – measuring the economic and other returns of research doesn't show a clear correlation or a linear path to innovation or success. It is not as simple as input X plus Y and output Z.

There have been smaller insights and discoveries along the way which have, in turn, culminated into more substantial path-breaking innovations. We will have to start with a vision, of course, but get comfortable with floundering along the way and yet being open to what we learn and discover.

Design thinking and agile methodologies also propagate the same concept and, hence, are being adopted by many organisations to become disruptive. Majority organisations primarily focus on creating products and services that are similar to what already exists, which leads to increased competition and price wars.

According to Uday Prabhu, General Manager for Innovation, Bosch, corporates need to work with the hardcore academic research world together to indeed bring innovation in companies. It means that companies must invest heavily in this area of fundamental research without expecting immediate returns. The long-term benefits of this will be phenomenal. Alongside, well-reputed colleges and institutes will also need to get curious about what is going on in the corporate world to align their research machinery with it.

I am hopeful that the future of disruptive innovation in India will be very bright. It is just a matter of recognising and tapping into the appropriate channels.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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