Pundits and business-school professors often define ?innovation? in terms of a result, the end of the creative process of discovery. They equate innovation with ideas and how universities and businesses come up with new concepts. At The Economist, we broaden the definition. We consider innovation with regard to its effect on marketplaces in general ? and, by extension, on societal well-being.
Innovation is about far more than a promise ? it?s about the creation of new wealth. By this reasoning, innovation is useless unless it augurs change. And innovation is most effective when it provides opportunities for increased comfort and convenience, for employment and the creation of wealth, and to solve individual and group problems.
The Economist has been sponsoring an innovation awards programme for seven years. Indeed, we?ll be recognising eight individuals and companies at the end of this month in London?s Science Museum. These awards revolve around far more than potential. They rest on three core criteria which are 1) the generation of an idea, 2) its commercialisation, and, finally, 3) its broader adoption and effect. Our criteria for award selection, therefore, are:
- Impact on an emerging branch of science, technology or business
- Impact on revenue of an award-winner?s sponsoring organisation, enterprise, or general economic or societal well-being; and
- Impact and effect on a marketplace or the establishment of a new market.
Ideas, their commercialisation, and the ideas? adoption are truly global efforts. They may hatch in Britain, be adopted in sub-Saharan Africa, and create demand in North America. They may come from a university laboratory or a corporate skunk works. Sometimes they?re deliberate; occasionally accidental. But they always, in our view, have impact far beyond one company or investor. The Economist presents its Innovation Awards to individuals in recent economic history who have toiled in seven areas:
- Bioscience, which includes pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and agriculture.
- Business Process, which ranges from enabling compounds, products and technologies to the very methods which underpin product discovery, design, or manufacturing. The business process category even applies to supply-chain and fulfillment innovations.
- Energy and the Environment, with products that include the production of energy, novel forms of transport, and radical ways of developing the automobile. Or, awards are given for new ways of creating and promulgating ?green? thinking through new systems or processes.
- Social and Economic Innovation refers to the technologies or business practices that improve everyday lives. A superb example, and the first winner in this category was Bangladeh?s Muhammed Yunnus and his development of microcredit. Another, Peru?s Hernando de Soto, applied to the development of legal structures which help poorer societies create economic value.
- Computing and Telecommunications includes the development of hardware, software, security, all telecoms standards, processes and devices.
- Consumer Products and Services may include the product itself, but also the process, media or design that has make that product truly unique ? and universally accepted. A perfect example, and prior winner, is Apple?s iPod team which created both a product and a service. True, they weren?t the first ? but they had the design and the marketing innovation to make it appear that they were first, and, certainly, to create a new market category. Another good example: Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo for his work as an electronic gaming industry architect (think: Mario and the Wii!)
- The ?No Boundaries? award is given for technology-based products or services that don?t fit neatly into any other category. The first winner was the developer of the blue-violet laser, Shuji Nakamura. Last year?s winners ? Germany?s Peter Grünberg, France?s Albert Fert, and America?s Stuart Parkin ? were recognised for their work developing the giant magnetoresistive effect (GMR) which has enhanced disk drive performance. (After The Economist informed the GMR winners of their award, Grünberg and Fert received a Nobel
Prize in physics for these same efforts.)
In addition to these individual awards, The Economist now recognises corporate innovation, which doesn?t go to an individual, but to an enterprise that?s successfully institutionalised the process of innovation to benefit their shareholders, customers or partners. This prize was first delivered last year to Procter & Gamble.
With the exception of the corporate innovation awards, the winners are nominated by Economist readers, journalists and members of an international faculty of some 33 judges (many of whom were former winners), including UK Trade & Investment Chief Executive Andrew Cahn. The Economist takes these nominations ? now totaling close to 150 names ? and whittles down the number of nominations to a more manageable 60 or 70 names. A nominee is struck from the list if the three criteria of idea, commercialisation, and broader success aren?t met. The judges then select the winners in all categories, except for corporate innovation, where the winner is selected by the newspaper itself.
Now, I could list the 2008 winners, but I?d be jumping the gun ? and breaking our own selfimposed news embargo. Suffice it to say that the winners this year come from right here in Britain, from America, Finland, Japan, and Taiwan. Perhaps I can convince our supporters at UK Trade & Investment to print the names of the winners in the next issue of Innovation UK. If not, check out The Economist?s website, or our Technology Quarterly supplement, which appears on December 6.
In the meantime, keep those suggestions rolling in. We?ll be opening up the nominations process in The Economist and on economist.com once again this coming spring.
The 2008 Economist Innovation Awards Judges: Robin Bew, Editorial Director, Economist Intelligence Unit Matthew Bishop; Chief Business Writer and American Business Editor, The Economist Andrew Cahn Chief Executive, UK Trade & Investment; Marvin H Caruthers, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Colorado (Bioscience Winner, 2006); Hermes Chan President and CEO, MedMira (Bioscience Winner, 2007); Martin Cooper, Chairman and CEO, ArrayComm; George Craford, Chief Technology Officer, Philips Lumileds; Lighting Company (Energy and the Environment Winner, 2007); Hernando de Soto, Chairman, Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) (Social and Economic Innovation Winner, 2006); Rodney Ferguson, Managing Director, Panorama Capital; Janus Friis, Co-founder, Joost (Computing and Telecommunications Winner, 2006); Lisa Gansky, Director, Dos Margaritas; Founder, Ofoto; François Grey, Head of IT Communications, CERN; Georges Haour, Professor, Technology and Innovation Management, IMD; Vic Hayes,Former Chair, IEEE 802.11, Standards Working Group for Wireless LANs (Telecommunications Winner, 2004); Mo Ibrahim, Founder, Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Former Chair, Celtel (Social and Economic Innovation Winner, 2006); Paul Jackson, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research B.V.; Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-Chief Executive Officer, Research in Motion Ltd. (Computing and Telecommunications Winner, 2007); Yoichiro Matsumoto, Professor, Dean of Engineering Faculty, University of Tokyo; Ed McBride, Energy Correspondent, The Economist; Louis Monier, VP of Products, Cuill; N.R. Narayana Murthy Chairman of the Board and Chief Mentor, Infosys Technologies (Business Process Winner, 2007); Andrew Odlyzko, Professor, School of Mathematics, University of Minnesota; CK Prahalad, Professor of Corporate Strategy, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan; Andrea Pfeifer, CEO, AC Immune SA; Sam Pitroda, Chairman, National Knowledge Commission, India (Business Process Winner, 2006); Navi Radjou, Vice President, Enterprise Applications, Forrester Research; Rinaldo Rinolfi, Executive Vice President, Fiat Research (Energy and the Environment Winner, 2002); Paul Romer, Professor of Economics, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University; Paul Saffo, Technology Forecaster; Jerry Simmons, Deputy Director for Energy Sciences of the Center for Physical, Chemical, and Nano-Sciences, Sandia National Laboratories; Tom Standage, Editor, Technology Quarterly, The Economist (Chairman); Vijay Vaitheeswaran, Biotechnology Correspondent, The Economist; Jeff Weedman, Vice-President of External Business Development, Procter & Gamble (Corporate Innovation Winner, 2007).
For more information about
The Economist?s Innovation Awards
please visit: www.economist.com/innovationawards
Tel: 020 7576 8118