Research and development is often equated with innovation, but that is only partly true. Innovation can only occur when R&D is combined with an analysis of needs that existing and potential customers might not even be able to express yet.
Innovation is proactive. Through observation and a thorough analysis of the market, needs that could be met with innovations are established. This is intensive work that deals with an unstable environment which is impossible to do while also dealing with the hustle and bustle of daily business. That’s why innovations thrive when their development is separated from day-to-day operations and assigned proper resources. This ensures that the innovation process gets the attention it needs – and that Research and Development focusses on customer needs.
R&D also plays a central role in the product lifecycle. Every product depends on renewal while it’s on the market. Maybe some minor issues need to be resolved when the first production line is put into operation. Technical improvements might enhance the usability of a machine. Laws and regulations might change, and advancements in technology might necessitate updates. All of these measures belong to the realm of Research and Development, and while they are indispensable for the product lifecycle, they are mostly reactions to circumstances.
The differences between innovations and developments during the product lifecycle are also reflected in Bühler’s innovation process, which we will be implementing starting in September. The requirements for both fields are relatively distinct; so what does the ideal organization of an innovation process look like? Our next article will examine an ideal innovation structure that allows the purposeful development of innovations. How should innovation be organized to manage the risks to the greatest possible extent and make good use of the well of knowledge in our company?