Has the pandemic has stimulated new types of innovation or just accelerated the process?
Research by Professor Bram Timmermans, co-editor of Industry and Innovation, suggests the rate of innovation has increased but some innovations will have a short shelf life.
There will be a chance to ‘meet the editors’ of some of the biggest R&D and innovation journals – including Bram – at the R&D Management Conference 2021.
We conducted a survey among Norwegian CEOs (all firms broad set of industries) and observed that rates of innovation had indeed increased.
In May 2020, just over 50 percent of managers indicated that they have innovated as a result of the pandemic. When we conducted a survey in November 76% indicated that they have innovated as a response to the crisis.
However, 28% percent of those who innovated believe that these innovations will not be valuable after the pandemic as the adjustments were driven by necessity to address the corona issue. For example, providing take away service for a Michelin star restaurant, or emergency-response innovations, such as the gin distillery that produced hand sanitiser.
What are the implications?
There are some firms that have innovated and introduced new products, services and process and these will have a long-term impact.
An interesting question is not only whether innovation is accelerated but also:
1 To what extent has the crisis contributed to build innovative capabilities (i.e. their ability to innovate post-pandemic)?
2 To what extent has the crisis led to crowding-out effect of other innovation activities (and possibly that there is a delay in some type of innovations)? Colleagues have seen a decline in innovations with a sustainability focus, but an increase in innovations with a digital focus. This might point to some crowding-out effect.
3 Who has succeeded best with innovations? We have found that those with innovation capabilities are the ones that innovate most during the crisis and also see the value of innovation post-corona.
NB. Some innovation might not be as a direct response of the pandemic.
Although digitalization has increased, in particular where health services interact with consumers (and interaction among workers), interestingly hardly any changes occurred in interactions with suppliers, nor big changes in making additional “digitalization” to existing product and services.
What we do observe is that the pandemic has created some uncertainty in terms of consumer behaviour. This probably explains why we observe that companies that have a strong marketing and branding focus are more uncertain because they are probably more challenged.
So has anything good come out of this experience?
In Scandinavian we have this expression “intet er så galt at det ikke er godt for noget” (“nothing is so bad that it is not good for something, which can be compared with every cloud has a silver lining”).
Personally, I see the increase in innovation activities as a positive development. The question is in how persistent this is. Also I have seen that this crisis has brought together academia and business in the development of common research project. Plenty research opportunities have emerged. Also, I am home a bit more 😊.
What are you looking to achieve at the R&D Management Conference?
Together with the conference track on start-up-corporate collaboration, we are searching for contributions that investigate the topic of corporate start-up collaboration as part of an upcoming special issue for Industry and Innovation, as this is an issue of interest for both managers and academics.
While all recognise the potential, recent studies shows that most of these collaboration fail, particular start-ups are disappointed on the outcomes. Not succeeding in such collaboration has severe implications for the entrepreneurial ecosystem at large but also for capturing possible value for corporates and start-ups alike. In our special issue, we would like to explore this in more detail.
Bram Timmermans will be talking in the Meet the Editors session of the 2021 R&D Management Conference.