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Conclusion

This free course provided an introduction to studying Engineering. It took you through a series of exercises designed to develop your approach to study and learning at a distance, and helped to improve your confidence as an independent learner.


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19 Part 3: 3 Sustaining and disruptive innovation

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18.4 MP3's diffusion depended on innovations in related areas

As well as being small and portable, MP3 devices have a number of additional competitive advantages. Digital compression allows the size of recordings to be significantly smaller without noticeable loss of sound quality so the capacity of portable devices can be much greater. Compatibility with computer systems means that music can be acquired from the internet or from a CD and easily manipulated into a sequence desired by the user.

Although MP3 players had been around for a number of y
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18.2.5 Trialability

It helps to be able to try innovations before buying. While this isn't common for most innovations it can reduce any uncertainty the buyer might have about committing to a purchase and can increase the speed of diffusion. Buying a car usually involves a test drive that, although it probably isn't a fair reflection of the range of conditions under which the product will eventually be used, is better than nothing.


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18.2.2 Compatibility

An innovation that is compatible with the experiences, values and needs of its potential buyers will be adopted more rapidly than one that isn't compatible. For example mobile phones have spread rapidly because they are compatible with social and cultural trends towards faster communications, increased personal mobility and the desirability of high-tech gadgets. However the car seat belt, patented in 1903, wasn't adopted on any significant scale until the 1970s (Author(s): The Open University

18.2.1 Relative advantage

In order to succeed, an innovation has to be perceived as offering advantages relative to existing comparable products or services. For example, it has more chance of selling if it is cheaper to make and buy, does the job better or does something previously not possible, offers more features, is easier to use, or is reliable and safe. Relative advantage is sometimes called competitive advantage.

A good example is how the steady reduction in size and increase in efficiency of the electri
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18.2 Characteristics of the innovation

In one of the standard works in this field, Everett Rogers (2003) identifies five characteristics of an innovation that affect how quickly and to what extent it will sell:

  1. relative advantage

  2. compatibility

  3. complexity

  4. observability

  5. trialability.


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18 Part 3: 2 Diffusion of innovations

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17.4 Standards and their role in innovation

Standards were originally related to units of measurement. The first ‘standard’ was the Egyptian royal cubit, which was made of black granite and was said to be equivalent to the length of the Pharoah's forearm and hand. This was also subdivided into finger, palm and hand widths – one ‘small cubit’ was equivalent to six palms. But because the human forearm was the master reference this meant that the cubit varied in different parts of the world. Over thousands of years agreement ove
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17.2 Getting finance and organisational backing

Like talk, ideas are cheap. Even generating a prototype of an invention can be cheap compared with the resources needed to produce and market an innovation. The independent inventor or designer is likely to have to rely on family and friends for financial backing, particularly in the early stages. Seed capital is sometimes available in the form of innovation grants from government bodies, such as the Department for Trade and Industry in the UK, which offers development funding to individuals
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17 Part 3: 1 Overcoming obstacles to innovation

You can experience this free course as it was originally designed on OpenLearn, the home of free learning from The Open University: Author(s): The Open University

16 Part 3: Innovation

You can experience this free course as it was originally designed on OpenLearn, the home of free learning from The Open University: Author(s): The Open University

12.4 Coupling model

There are examples where either technology or the market appears to be more significant in stimulating invention but the majority of innovations involve a creative coupling of technological and market factors. In some respects successful innovation is a case of the survival of the fittest. Failure can come both from not getting the technology right and from misjudging the market. Success is more likely if the focus is not too one-dimensional but rather a balance between technology and market
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11.5.5 Chance

Another important source of inventions and scientific discoveries is chance, which is strongly associated with acts of insight. As well as the sort of painstaking work that either precedes an invention or goes into the steady improvement in performance, in the development of most inventions there's a moment when chance plays a part. Often people are looking for one thing but find another – perhaps working on one technology when they stumble on the principles behind another. The skill of the
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11.4 Step 3 – incubation

Incubation is a period when the inventor, having been working on the problem for some time during identification and exploration, is no longer giving it conscious attention. The problem and its solution have been put to one side, on purpose or not, but the subconscious mind is capable of holding on to the problem. During this time, according to Roy (Open University, 2004, p. 34), ‘the relaxed brain [is] repatterning information absorbed during the period of preparation often after receiving
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10.10 Government policy, legislation and regulations

To a certain extent it's possible for governments to stimulate invention by providing incentives for manufacturers to develop new products and for consumers to buy and use them. One example of this process is in the field of vehicles powered by alternative fuels.

In the USA the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct) was passed to reduce US dependence on imported petroleum. The EPAct required federal and governmental departments with fleets over a certain size to acquire a percentage of alter
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10.9.3 New manufacturing process

One of the reasons that a new device, like an RFID tag, has a chance of becoming mainstream technology is that a new manufacturing process has been invented that allows production on an industrial scale and at a relatively low cost.

Fluidic self-assembly (FSA) is a new manufacturing process that has been patented by Alien Technology Corp in the USA. In the FSA process tiny integrated circuits – trademarked as NanoBlocks – are suspended in liquid and flow over a substrate surface tha
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10.3 Constructive discontent

Inventive ideas often arise because existing technology or design proves to be unsatisfactory in some way – perhaps too costly, too inefficient or too dangerous. Using a product or process for a while can reveal inadequacies in its performance and is often vital preparation for producing ideas for improvements. You may have become dissatisfied either with an existing product or process or with the fact that something doesn't exist to meet a need you've identified. But creative individuals g
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10 Part 2: 1 How invention starts

You can experience this free course as it was originally designed on OpenLearn, the home of free learning from The Open University: Author(s): The Open University

9 Part 2: Invention

You can experience this free course as it was originally designed on OpenLearn, the home of free learning from The Open University: Author(s): The Open University

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