The artists of invention
To make it in today’s fiercely competitive market, companies must think outside the box. Research, development and innovation hold the key to success, writes Thomas Mallick
Commerce has gone through many changes since our ancestors first established the concept of lending. Economies have grown as populations have increased, and with the development of increased lending, commerce has become integral to our way of living; allowing mankind to develop and sustain itself on a macro scale.
Until recently, innovation was a concept labelled as the remit of the technologically and creatively minded. But as scientific know-how has become more accessible and information ubiquitous, The New Economy has taken the opportunity to recognise the ingenious achievements made in business throughout 2012. The following list of 40 companies and individuals identifies triumphs in research and development and the implementation of said accomplishments.
Innovation is considered by many companies to be a risky and expensive liability. When times get tough, many CEOs go straight to their R&D departments in search of potential savings. Focusing on an existing portfolio and continuing with the status quo may seem like a logical move, especially when shareholders come nibbling, but had Apple taken that approach there would be no iPod, MacBook, iPhone or iPad, and the company would have gone out of business. The most successful companies – like a lot of automobile manufacturers in the last few decades of the 20th century – understand that new products work in a similar fashion to the investment multiplier often discussed by economists in terms of national economies: you must innovate to accumulate.
Naturally, countries have different approaches to what they consider innovation. Much of what we traditionally regard as the West looks at the launch of new consumer goods and services as true innovation, while Australasia and the Scandinavian regions tend to categorise it in terms of sustainability and green technology. China and a number of Asian nations celebrate innovation as the bettering of existing processes. Looking at the Innovation 40 2012, these differences aren’t difficult to consolidate. Indeed, we’ve scoured the globe for a range of entities throughout a host of different industries, selecting those that have moved the boundaries of existing paradigms throughout the year – from those creating new markets to those who succeeded in refining strategies or existing products; all have positioned themselves to evolve regardless of what financial constraints may have hindered their efforts.
Tackling innovation head on is a notion that any firm – small or large – must adopt in order to withstand the pressure currently prevalent in global markets. With more and more competition arising from new contenders in once-discounted domiciles – which boast enterprises capable of offering affordable pricing structures – companies that had previously gained large market shares are finding themselves under intense pressure to re-establish themselves. The most immediate winner of this new sense of competition is, of course, the consumer.
What is commendable about this list is that it is made up of not only well-established organisations and multinational superpowers, but of some breakthrough companies pioneering niche developments. We believe this is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, this is an information economy: success is recognised in those capable of understanding their market and offering something different. Secondly, information is in overabundance, so continually being able to analyse and react is a fundamental requirement for pursuing growth, even on a small scale. Lastly, innovation can be fostered in each and every functional and strategic department, and if approached correctly can turn a small enterprise into an industry leader.
With firms and individuals such as those seen on this list ensuring industry moves forward, the future looks promising: from an economic growth perspective; in bettering living standards; and adding to human advancement in general. We feel that the novel nature of this list – recognising innovation as the application of thought to a number of different processes and end-results – offers a diverse and well-rounded overview of the most exciting prospects from 2012.