The terms ‘invention’ and ‘innovation’ are often used interchangeably in business, yet there is a subtle but distinct difference between the meaning of the two words. Essentially, invention refers to the creation of a product or process that has never been seen before, while innovation refers to the process of improving existing products or processes through the introduction of new ideas or ways of doing something.

Inventions do not always result in innovation, unless the new product is documented to be useful. Companies, therefore, that claim to be innovative purely because they have patents evidencing the ideas for new products, may not actually be innovative at all unless those products have been tried, tested and shown to be of use. You can find out more about my experience in business innovation by visiting the Ahmed Dahab Facebook page.

Some of the key considerations for innovation can be viewed in the infographic attachment.

Defining Invention

Invention can be defined as the process of creating, discovering or designing something brand new, which could be a product, a process or a method of doing things. An invention typically turns into something tangible following a period of research and development that leads to the actualisation of a scientific idea.

The rights to ownership of an invention can be secured by applying for a patent, which legally identifies the inventor as the owner of the rights to the invention, as well as identifying it as an invention and securing the intellectual property rights. The rules for obtaining a patent for an invention change depending on which country the inventor lives in and wishes to patent the invention. It can also be a costly process. To qualify to obtain a patent, the invention must be proven to have value and be novel and non-obvious.

The UK criteria for patenting an invention can be seen in the short video attachment.

Defining Innovation

Innovation can be defined as the process of creating and implementing a change that adds value in some way by streamlining a process, making a product or service more useful or appealing to the customer, or redesigning technology systems to provide solutions that are relevant to the current requirements of the market.

Innovation requires a broader skillset than invention, which tends to be more scientific. Innovators need to have technical skills, but they also need strategic and marketing skills to implement their ideas. Innovation also tends to focus more on the company as a whole, rather than one specific product, service or technological system.

The Apple iPod is a great example of innovation. You can read more about it in the embedded PDF.

Invention Driving Innovation

Invention and innovation are both important and, without invention, innovation would be much harder. Already, innovation is a complex process that requires not only original ideas but also a wide set of skills to be able to effectively implement those ideas to make a difference. Invention can help drive innovation by providing a starting point for new ideas and processes, or an original model that can be improved upon to add further value.

Legal systems including the patent system help protect the rights of inventors so that these inventions can be used as part of a process of innovation, with the inventor being given fair recompense for being involved in the innovation process. To take invention into innovation requires not only the technical and scientific expertise to come up with an original idea or product, but also the business skills, marketing experience and understanding of consumer behaviour that will help get new products and services to market or add value to existing products and services.