Innovation drives economic growth and business resilience,
however too often innovation is considered solely in the context of technical
development. A far more complicated series of actions is required to transform
an invention or scientific discovery into a product or process which provides
value, in other words an innovation.
For manufacturing industries including biorefining and industrial
biotechnology, this means implementing a process which produces a product for
sale, therefore generating value from commercial revenue.
At NNFCC we’ve adopted Technology Innovation Systems (TIS)
Analysis as a structured tool for assessing the effectiveness of innovation
systems. Understanding the innovation environment around a technology allows
companies to commercialise more effectively and Government to make considered
and strategic interventions to support corporate innovation.
Innovation can be considered to occur within an ecosystem,
with multiple stakeholders performing a range of actions, all of which, play an
important role in the innovation process. Identifying flaws and bottlenecks
within innovation systems can lead to increased levels of innovation at a
national level and within businesses.
An innovation system is built from components which provide the
structure for the system. These components include the systems actors;
the organisations contributing to a technology, as a developer or adopter, or
indirectly as a regulator or financier; the institutions, which lie
at the core of the ecosystem providing the rules and boundaries in which the
system operates. Formal institutions include governmental laws and policy but
informal institutions reflecting societal morals values and ethics are also
important. The third component of the system is technological factors which define and constrain the system such as
costs, safety or reliability.
Innovation relies on the effective interaction of the
systems actors. Without this interaction, knowledge development and transfer
will be limited; legal and regulatory frameworks could be misguided or
inappropriate; entrepreneurs will be poorly informed on business opportunities
and risks, and industry, academia and Government will struggle to find a
consensus around the legitimate direction of technology development.
effectiveness of systems
Based on an understanding of the innovation system
components the analysis looks at how effectively seven inextricably linked
system functions, discussed below, are performing. Careful analysis allows the
identification of actions designed to improve the system and enhance the
A TIS analysis asks questions about the legitimacy of development.
The so-called direction of search refers to activities that shape the needs,
requirements and expectations of the actors within the innovation system.
Reaching consensus on the direction of the search allows effort to be focussed
on specific technological options allowing the strategic deployment of limited
resources. Of course, care should be taken that the search is not too narrow. For
example, within the realm of public research funding for industrial
biotechnology there is an ongoing discussion of whether, and if so where, funding
should be focussed.
Any innovation will face a degree of resistance to change. The extent to which advocacy coalitions are formed is dependent on the nature of the change and the implications for market incumbents or society in general. Recent debates around food versus fuel and the use of genetically modified organisms demonstrate the importance of positive or negative advocacy coalitions for innovation.
A clear direction of search creates the necessary conditions
development, TIS examines the learning activities which drive not only
technological development but also the understanding of markets, social
dynamics and sustainability considerations. Knowledge development considers
academic research as well as the work of consultants and the benefits of
‘learning by doing’. In the UK, we have a world leading bioscience knowledge base
providing a strong foundation for industrial biotechnology innovation.
Knowledge development clearly relies on a range of
disciplines and expertise, and effective knowledge exchange is critical. Knowledge
exchange and knowledge diffusion can be facilitated through the
effective organisation and support of formal networks, through meetings,
workshops and conferences and through project collaborations. The UK has
invested in a comprehensive system of networks across the bioeconomy including
13 Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy, Knowledge Transfer
Network Special Interest Groups and local cluster organisations such as
Like any activity, innovation requires resources. The
assessment of resource mobilisation looks at the allocation of financial,
material and human capital within the innovation system. Resource requirements
will vary depending on the nature of the innovation and its point of development
but will include technical skills, finance and subsidies, infrastructure such
as educational systems and technology scale up facilities and raw materials for
manufacturing. The scale up facilities offered by BioPilotsUK form an essential
part of the UKs bioeconomy innovation system.
Without an innovation sponsor, emerging technologies will
struggle to compete against incumbent technologies. Market Formation assesses
the activities that contribute to the creation of a demand for the emerging
technology. Market formation may involve financial support for the emerging
technology, or taxing the use of competing technologies. It may also involve the
development of standards and labels or mandating the supply of a product, as
seen in the renewable energy market.
Finally, to bring technical development to the market
requires entrepreneurial activity. Projects need to prove the commercial
attractiveness of the emerging technology in a practical environment. Access to
finance, internal or external, rests on the entrepreneur’s ability to
demonstrate the commercial viability and economic payback of the innovation.
At NNFCC we have spent the last 13 years working to
understand how innovation happens, assisting Government departments and
agencies in implementing innovation supporting policies and working with
business to realise innovation actions.
Through two European funded projects we can practically support
SME innovation in the bioeconomy sector. The Superbio and BioBase4SME projects provide
networks of companies offering professional business services from market and
life cycle analysis to business planning and technology scale up to support