On the three kinds of innovations

D Balasubramanian, in his latest Speaking of Science column in The Hindu, summarises a talk delivered by Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw of Biocon at IISc during IISc’s centenary celebrations on the three kinds of innovations, namely, incremental, evolutionary and breakthrough; he also gives some examples of successful breakthrough innovations:

The third is what she terms “breakthrough innovation”. This involves the creation of a radically new product, service, process or business model. Breakthrough is about new technology and novel products that are derived from experimental innovation. The electric car “Reva” or Biocon’s own “oral insulin” exemplify this.

Apart from Biocon’s oral insulin, let me quote another example. This comes from the innovative idea of DR. R. A. Mashelkar, then at the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), termed the New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative or NMITLI.

In one of the projects under this scheme, CSIR brought together a few eye research centres, a CISR research laboratory (CCMB at Hyderabad) and the Bangalore-based company Xcyton, and urged them to produce a DNA-based “chip” that would detect microbial infection of the eye, and point out whether the pathogen is a bacterium, fungus, or virus. This novel diagnostic chip is now in the market. The last and the most challenging category is “experimental innovation”, which in reality is close to, or identical to, invention. The driver here is the next practice.

One of the innovations that Balasubramanian talks about, namely Reva car, is my favourite too!


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