Innovation is not Part of Invention, but Invention is Part of Innovation

Invention and innovation are related concepts that are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same.

Invention refers to the creation of a new product, process, or technology that did not exist before. In contrast, innovation refers to the implementation of a new idea, process, or product that adds value to the market.

Invention is a crucial component of innovation because, without it, there would be no new ideas to implement. Invention is the starting point for innovation and represents the technical and scientific side of the innovation process. For example, the invention of the internal combustion engine was a significant technological breakthrough that paved the way for the innovation of the automobile.

Innovation, on the other hand, is not limited to the technical and scientific aspects of the process. It also involves the managerial, organizational, and social aspects of bringing a new product or idea to market. Innovation involves taking an invention and finding a way to make it commercially viable. This requires identifying a market need, creating a business plan, and developing a marketing strategy to bring the product or idea to consumers. For example, the innovation of the automobile involved not only the technical development of the vehicle but also the creation of a mass production process and a distribution network that made it accessible to consumers.

The engineering part of innovation involves the technical development of a new product, process, or technology. Engineers use their expertise to create prototypes and refine the design until it is ready for production. The managerial part of innovation involves strategic planning and implementing the product or idea into the market. This includes identifying a market need, creating a business plan, and developing a marketing strategy.

One way people can distinguish between invention and innovation is by looking at the process itself. Invention is a solitary process, usually carried out by individuals or small teams, whereas innovation is a collaborative process that involves multiple stakeholders, including investors, business leaders, marketers, and consumers. Another way is to look at the impact of the new product or idea. Invention has the potential to be groundbreaking, but it may not have a significant impact on the market unless it is successfully commercialized through innovation.

For example, the invention of the first smartphone in 1992 by IBM was a significant technological breakthrough, but it wasn’t innovated until Apple’s introduction of the iPhone in 2007 that the technology became widely adopted and had a significant impact on the market. The iPhone was an innovation that combined the technical capabilities of the smartphone with a sleek design, user-friendly interface, and a robust ecosystem of apps and services.

In another example, the invention of the internet was a technological breakthrough that had limited impact until it was combined with the innovation of the World Wide Web, which made it accessible to a broad audience and transformed it into a revolutionary tool for communication and commerce.

In conclusion, invention and innovation are related concepts essential for technological and economic progress. Invention is the technical and scientific development of a new product, process, or technology, while innovation involves strategically planning and implementing that new idea into the market. Invention is part of innovation because it is the starting point for the process, but innovation involves more than just technical development and requires collaboration between multiple stakeholders to make a new idea commercially viable.


In the figure below you see the evolution of the high jump along the history. Please identify the innovations in this endeavor and the inventions. Could you identify the incremental innovations, radical innovations and disruptive innovations in this evolution?


Credits: Stelian Brad