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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

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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

1.1 Safe design

This unit is about the concepts and theories that underpin the field of engineering known as Structural integrity – that is, the safe design and assessment of load-bearing structures in their entirety, including any individual components from which they may have been constructed. Aspects of structural integrity are implemented in almost every engineering design process, even if the engineer or designer does not necessarily think of it in that way. In this unit, we have separated the
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Wordsworth, De Quincy and Dove cottage
Can a location inspire great poetry? To what extent can a person’s environment influence their art? After leaving the area as a child the Romantic poet William Wordsworth returned to the Lake District and remained there from 1799 to 1802. Surrounded by scenery he cherished Wordsworth composed some of his best poetry in Dove Cottage, but the building was also the residence of friend Thomas De Quincy whom documented his time with the Wordsworth’s as well as his own experiences in the property.
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Except for third party materials and otherwise stated (see http://www.open.ac.uk/conditions terms and conditions), this content is made available under a http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2

5.3 Designs

A design comprises drawings, instructions or models that contain all the information for the manufacture of a product or the introduction of a process or system.

So Edison's early prototypes were different designs that physically embodied the new ideas on which his invention was based. But developing an invention in a laboratory or workshop is one thing, manufacturing an innovation to sell to others is a different matter.

Edison quickly realised that he needed to dev
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5.1 Introduction to key concepts

Before I go any further I will establish the meaning of some of the key concepts that you will encounter throughout this unit.

The key concepts elaborated in this unit are:

  • inventor

  • invention

  • design

  • product champion

  • entrepreneur

  • improver

  • innovation

  • dominant design

  • robust design

  • lean design

  • radical i
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4.5 Was the telephone invented in response to a need or because of developments in technology?

As with many truly innovative technologies it's difficult to claim that people were demanding its invention. Most people were satisfied with the existing means of communicating across distances. It took a great deal of imagination to foresee that the ability to speak to others at a distance would eventually replace the telegraph in business and the letter in personal communications. People weren't expressing a need to be able to communicate more rapidly but once the means became available to
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2 Part 1: 1 Living with innovation

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Keep on learning

Study another free course

There are more than 800 courses on OpenLearn for you to
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