Innovation – A Mixture of Problem Solving and Technology Looking for a Home by Smart Idea Store


Innovation is a combination of technology developed to solve or mitigate particular problems or the results of pure research where the strive for further knowledge looks for an application.


A list of the 10 greatest inventions in history, which is always subjective, illustrates that innovation is a mix of solutions to a specific problem that meets a market demand and technologies that are discovered or created through the progress of science and engineering  that are looking for applications.  Pure Research or Disinterested Science, as it is also called, is the search for further knowledge for knowledge’s sake.  The subsequent development of this knowledge and application by others has produced some of the most revolutionary inventions in history:


The Innovation The Situation The Outcome
The Telescope A solution to a problem –what is out there, in the night sky, beyond the gaze of the human eye? We are not the centre of our universe -400 years of heresy for Galileo Galilei.
Harnessed Electricity Creates markets -whilst not quite an innovation looking for an application, the initial powering of a few homes, streets and office lights has gone on to become a cornerstone of our civilisation with the capabilities of transferring electrical power across continents. Tesla’s invention of alternating current to transmit electricity over long distances revolutionised our lives and is still used over a century later to power almost everything in our homes and our work places.
Modern Plumbing A solution to a problem –the mitigation of communicable disease through the ability to remove sewage and deliver clean water to densely populated areas. The modern city would not be possible without this innovation, just imagine a high-rise block without modern plumbing!
The Printing Press Creates markets –printing was done manually and an extremely laborious process which meant it was mainly religious materials copied by members of religious orders. The printing press has been implicated in the Reformation, the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution by simplifying the collection and dissemination of information forever.
Automobile Creates markets –the first automobile by Karl Benz covered a distance of 106km in 13 hours and could not handle hills. Fuel could only be bought from pharmacies in small amounts. Iterative improvements revolutionised the performance of the automobile and transformed it from a luxury item into an essential mode of transport.
Laser Creates markets –when the first functioning laser was demonstrated in 1960 it was described as a “a solution looking for a problem”. Bloodless surgery, laser healing, surgical treatment, kidney stone treatment, eye treatment, dentistry, latent fingerprint detection in the forensic identification field, laser printers, CD and DVD players, barcode scanners, thermometers, laser pointers, holograms, bubblegrams, laser light shows, acne treatment, cellulite reduction and hair removal are just some applications!
Plastics A solution to a problem –inventor Leo Baakeland was looking for an insulating  material to coat wires in electric motors and generators. Plastics have now become an integral component in many devices and products in their own right including contact lenses, carrier bags, food packaging, bottles and bottle tops etc.
Computer A solution to a problem –the first computers processed information from the 1890 American census. They reduced the time to tabulate the census from 8 years for the 1880 census to one year. Computers have developed dramatically in terms of the number of operations and the variety of tasks they perform.  The introduction of additional resources including programmes and audio and visual outputs have made computers an essential component of our work and personal life.
Aeroplane Creates markets –the first heavier than air powered flight only lasted a short time and did not get very far off the ground. The first world war was the initial catalyst for improvements to the aeroplane, which included the jet engine in the 1930s and the introduction of commercial jet planes in the 1950s.
Antibiotics Creates markets –remarkably, Fleming’s discovery did not lead directly to the introduction of antibiotics due to the difficulty of producing it in quantity and a belief that penicillin would not last long enough in vivo to have an effect. Florey and Chain started mass producing penicillin during the second world war so that there was enough available to treat all the wounded allied forces on D-Day.



If you can find the right opportunity, with a large market (or multiple markets) with little competition, there can be a lot of money to be made.


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