What is the difference between invention and innovation?

What is the difference between invention and innovation?


The distinction between “invention” and “innovation” was raised by economist and professor of political science Joseph Schumpeter. Indeed, a difference between these two terms exists even if they both designate the creation of a novelty.

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What is an invention?

An invention comes from the fruit ofimagination of an individual. It consists of creating a new concept, product or service. The invention therefore incorporates a principle of creation for the first time. It designates a scientific and technical discovery that solves a given problem. An invention does not necessarily have an existing market, it is possible that it will not develop or that there is no commercial stake. However, you should know that an invention must be protected against theft, which means that each invention must be the subject of a patent application.

Here are two examples of inventions whose impact has been resounding and which are now part of our daily lives.

In 1454, Johannes Gutenberg invented the modern western printing press. Before, it was the Chinese who were the first to take an interest in the printing process to simplify the use of ideographic writing. In the 15th century, Johannes Gutenberg accelerated the speed of printing reproduction with two inventions: metal movable type and the hand press. Johannes Gutenberg died in 1468 and never profited from his inventions. But during the Renaissance, they allowed the rapid dissemination of knowledge and ideas.

L’invention of television is itself the result of a succession of discoveries and inventions: photoconductivity of selenium, rapid scanning system, photoelectric cell, cathode ray tube. It was finally in 1926 that the Scotsman John Logie Baird broadcast the first public images on television.

What is an innovation?

An innovation means theimprovement of an existing concept with new features. Generally, an innovation transforms the idea of ​​a concept resulting from an invention which has already found its market. Innovation is linked to a commercial issue for and is therefore destined to be disseminated on a large scale.

3 methods of innovation stand out.

  • design innovation : the objective is to modify the design of an existing product so that the customer has an innovative experience;
  • Usage-based innovation : the objective is to modify the way of using the product;
  • Incremental innovation : the objective is to make a small improvement to an already existing product.

There are many innovations that stem from artificial intelligence that can be used in everyday life.

The personal assistants, for example, are increasingly numerous and increasingly sophisticated. The market is very competitive and implies a need for constant innovation to stand out from its competitors. Let’s mention Google with the Home assistant, Apple with the virtual assistant Siri or Microsoft with Cortana. These voice assistants are controlled by voice and answer all user questions, like with a search engine. These voice assistants aim to make life easier for these users with features such as setting an alarm, listening to the radio, calling a taxi or knowing the weather.

Many innovations today stem from principle of 3D printing, particularly in terms of medical innovation. The Osteoid plaster, which makes it possible to heal certain fractures more quickly, is the perfect example. Osteoid was created by Turkish industrial designer Deriz Karasahin. The 3D printed cast is made using a 3D scan of the fracture or broken bone. This custom-made exoskeleton prototype notably allows the plastered limb to breathe and is water resistant. This innovation thus makes it possible to limit the inconveniences associated with the installation of traditional plasters.

Differences Between Invention and Innovation

Economist and professor of political science Joseph Schumpeter initiated the distinction between invention and innovation in his research. For him, invention means the discovery of new scientific and technical knowledge. Innovation, on the other hand, refers to “the marketing of any new combination resulting from new materials and components, the introduction of new processes, the opening of new markets or the introduction of a new organizational form”.

Innovation is not just a novelty, but an improvement that enables commercial success. To summarize : to invent is to create using one’s imagination while to innovate is to transform using one’s mind. The companies that invent are not the same ones that innovate. The company that invents brings something new. The company that innovates relies on invention.

In general, invention stems from the researcher, while innovation will be more entrepreneurial. Indeed, an invention designates an isolated idea that meets a need; an innovation is something new that has commercial repercussions.

Let’s quote a few concrete examples to illustrate this difference between invention and innovation.

In 1826, the physicist Joseph Nicéphore Niepce invented the concept of photography with the fixing of images on tin plates. In 1839, Louis Daguerre then presented the Academy of Sciences with the first reliable photography process with his daguerreotype. Thomas Suthon then innovated with color photography in 1861. Louis Daguerre and Thomas Suthon contributed to the invention of Nicéphore Niepce by creating innovative and marketable products which had great success. Photography becomes over time easier to use and above all portable. Previously, the image depended only on painters and sculptors. The invention of photography and the innovations that followed in the 19th century thus revolutionized the relationship to the image and heralded the arrival of the media.

On April 9, 1860, Frenchman Édouard Léon Scott de Martinville invented a recording process and thus succeeded in recording the first human voice. This precursor remained in the shade, because he had unfortunately not planned a machine to read the recorded voice. The innovation then comes from the American Thomas Edison who files the patent for the phonograph on December 19, 1877. Edison presents his technological innovations at the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris. Its innovation is then one of the major attractions of this event.

In 1854, in France, Charles Bourseul, who worked for the telegraphs, presented for the first time the principle of an invention which made it possible to converse at a distance in the magazine “L’Illustration”. At the time, he was not taken seriously. On February 14, 1876, the American Graham Bell registered his patent for his innovation “the telephone”. Industrialized at the beginning of the era of globalization, the telephone designates an improvement of the telegraph. From now on, the distance does not have any more importance to exchange vocally. Another innovation stemming from the invention of the telephone: the smartphone. The first smartphone was invented by IBM in 1992, but despite the technological prowess, it was a commercial failure. Innovations after innovations, and in particular popularized in 2007 by Apple, the smartphone is constantly evolving. However, these are not inventions!

Last example, in a completely different field: the pressure cooker. Invented as early as 1679 by Denis Papin, his version of the pressure cooker was so heavy and impractical that it was almost unusable. It took until 1948 for an innovation to make it operational: a model in cast aluminum with a simplified closing system for more maneuverability. The SEB group has made the pressure cooker more accessible with a new innovation that has lowered its price: the change of material to stamped aluminium.

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