«Innovation Concepts and Typology – An Evolutionary Discussion»

Maxim Kotsemir and Alexander Abroskin. National Research University - Higher School of Economics (HSE). Basic Research Program. Working Papers. Series: Science, Technology and Innovation / STI. WP BRP 05/STI/2013.

«The analysis of different approaches of classification of innovation gives the following picture of innovation types:

»1)Such types as process innovation, product innovation, service innovation and so on (Block A in the Table 13) emerge in many studies on innovation typology.

»2) The second cluster is so-called “new” types of innovation. They appeared 5 - 10 years ago and had not yet become the "classic” ones. They include such types of innovation such as frugal innovation, red ocean innovation, organic innovation and other numerous (and in many case “very exotic” from the point of view of strict terminology) types of innovation (block B in Table 13). These types of innovation are used mainly in models developed for management of innovation and in business models of new product (service). Therefore these types are more “attractive”, catchy than purely scientific and strict (in their definition).

»3) The next block of innovation types is the innovation types, classified according to the degree of innovation. Therefore here radical, breakthrough or revolutionary innovation can be classified as “strong innovation” while non-drastic or minor innovation will be treated as “weak innovation” (Block C, Table 13).

»4) Finally, innovations can be classified in dichotomical manner. Here the following controversial pairs of innovation types can be identified: open/closed innovation, radical/incremental, product/process and so on (Block D, Table 13).

»In conclusion it can be shown that the innovation typology has about the same way of development as concept of innovation itself. It has evolved from a more or less structured system to a very complex and impossible to structure system of classification. In addition the bulk of this classification can hardly be classified as classification with the strict terminology.


»The analysis of concepts, aspects, definitions and types of innovation was done in this work. The following conclusions can be made from this analysis.

»1) The innovation concept has a long history of development. Till the end of the XIX century innovations and innovators were explicitly or implicitly denied and decried society. Since the last decades of the XIX century till the 1960-s years the interest to innovation has grown and the basis for innovation studies was established. In 1960-s – 1990-s can be called the “golden age” for the conceptualization of innovation. During this period the key concepts of innovation as well as well-structured methodology an models for analysis the innovation processes were developed. However in 2000-s innovation more and more became the buzzword and conception of innovation start to vague. The innovation models shift from macro level to individual firm level. There is also no unified and commonly accepted understanding of the innovation concept.

»2) The innovation typology shifted from a more or less well-structured system to a system with a big number of very different elements. Now along with the already well-established types of innovation (such as product or process innovation), there are also completely new types of innovation (such as frugal innovation or organic innovation). These new types of innovations are often called differently by different authors and rarely have the commonly understood concept.

»3) Aspects of innovation developed from “innovation as process” and “innovation as an object” to a more detailed one including innovation as tool for changing and innovation as context for changing as well as innovation as human abilities for doing something and innovation as change itself.

»4) The trends in the evolution of innovation concepts and typology pose the following challenges for theorists of innovation studies:

»_ development of new generally accepted and strict terminology for new types and concepts of innovation;

»_ classification of new innovation concepts and types into a well-structured system;

»_ development of strict criteria for separation true innovation from “dramatic changes”, “minor improvements” and other novelties, novations and reforms that are really cannot be treated as innovation.

»Eventually the challenge will be to refine the innovation definition and classification of innovation types and streamline them into a usable and understandable set of definitions, concepts and types which are of use for academics and practitioners.

»For private sector practitioners this is of utmost importance since it shows that too many different concepts appeared in the last years which are more of marketing and advertising style rather than adding real value to company operations.

»In the political sphere such understanding should emphasize the potential impacts of innovation for the given political and societal goals but these need a clear communication beyond the respective communities involved.

»Overall innovation needs to be considered as a long time investment. There is still the assumption that actors (companies or countries) investing in innovation are the most successful ones but in reality the tie dimension of impact from innovation is neglected.

»Furthermore marginal innovation is obviously the preferred innovation type for companies which are I duty to report to investors quarterly.

»A changing understanding of the nature of innovation and it’s implications is hence needed.»

Innovation Typologies
Thematic Readings

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