Developing an innovation strategy

Innovation doesn't happen by chance—it’s the result of a systematic process. Here is the process explained. 

A comprehensible definition of goals lies at the heart of the innovation strategy. These goals must be formulated as clearly as possible so that they are perceived correctly by employees and applied as part of the company culture. Strategy also includes knowledge of the market and of customers’ current and future requirements, along with a thought process on the appropriate protection of innovations, notably the registration of patents, trademarks or designs.

A systematic process for innovating might look like this:

  1. Defining a strategy
  2. Transposing it into a search and innovation matrix (portfolio)
  3. Adapting search fields according to customer needs
  4. Searching for new products, technologies, services or processes
  5. Protecting innovations with industrial property rights (patents, trademarks and designs) 

1. Defining a strategy

Questions about an innovation strategy Developing an innovation strategy
What is the goal of the strategy?  
What is the available budget?  
How should we proceed?  
Which type of strategy should we choose (strategy determined by costs, innovation, trend, etc.)?  
What market knowledge is integrated into the strategy?  
Which future customer needs are crucial to the innovation strategy?  
Which segment of the customer base should we focus on?  
What image of our company do we want to convey to the customer base?  
Do the strategic goals guarantee a unique selling point (USP)?  
Do the goals require new resources?  
Are the innovation strategies of the main competitors known?  
What is the goal of the strategy?  
Do innovations need to be protected by industrial property rights?  

Using the check-list above, a brief, concise innovation strategy may be defined according to the following:

Formulation of the innovation strategy of the company XXX SARL, situated at XXX
1. Objective:
2. Method:
3. Process:

2. Transposing strategy into a search and innovation matrix (portfolio)

After having determined the strategy, the search fields for the products and services can be identified and assessed using matrices (portfolios). The goal of this portfolio analysis is to define the following points in order to be able to position the company on the market:

  • Opportunities/risks of new technologies
  • Market trends
  • Customer requirements
  • Behavior of the competition
  • Etc.

The following three matrices (market trends/technological trends; time scale/level of innovation; service/market) can help define the innovation strategy of small companies in particular (check-list available for downloading opposite). Graphic elements (large circles) and their positions in the portfolio can also help define the current situation of the company.

1st matrix: Market trends/technological trends

Market trends Technological trends
Table caption. Tools to define the importance of the field of research and the degree of competence within the company for the purpose of elaborating a strategy of innovation

2nd matrix: Time scale/level of innovation

Time scale   Level of innovation
  gradual radical
long term    
long term    
Table caption. Disk whose size corresponds to market potential

3rd matrix: Services (technology/products/services)/market (existing/new)

    existing new
new Search field 1 "Hohes Risiko"
Search field 3
existing Main activities (existing services) Search field 2
Table caption. Disk whose size corresponds to the market potential of identified trends

Source: "Innovationen im Kleinunternehmen", Swiss Research Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, University of St. Gallen, Enkel, 2006.

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Search field portfolio: Market trends/technological trends (DOC, 46 kB, 15.08.2018)Schweizerisches Institut für Klein- und Mittelunternehmen an der Universität St.Gallen (KMU-HSG)

Last modification 28.08.2018

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