Technology Transfer. Published by the European Commission, DG
European business needs to adapt if it is
to compete in an increasingly knowledge-driven global economy. A Spanish-led
consortium aims to help firms by using an analysis of innovation management
techniques (IMTs) based on relational tools that promote the diffusion of novel
ideas and technologies. IMTs are about understanding how an organisation works
and then improving it.
A study by the European Commission's Directorate-General for
Enterprise, 'Innovation management and
the knowledge-driven economy', aims at a
comprehensive review of available management methodologies designed to support
innovation, known as
innovation management techniques (IMTs). The study is being led out by the
Universidad Politecnica de Madrid.
are employed to assess each of 26 IMTs with respect to its focus on knowledge
economy drivers – the consideration that lies at the heart of the study. The
analysis permits the most relevant IMTs to be grouped in ten different
The practical application of the IMTs requires a careful mix that
takes into account the individual circumstances of each firm, however. "It is
very difficult to use any single IMT in isolation," explains Antonio Hidalgo,
the study's co-ordinator. "This is because of the way knowledge spreads around a
company – in marketing,
networking, and creative problem-solving, for example. You have to identify the
different knowledge assets available to an enterprise in order to evaluate which IMTs it should apply. We might select a range of business creation tools to
define a specific business plan for a company. That same company can use
creativity development techniques to come up with ideas, but it then has to
implement them, convert them into specific products or services for the market.
At that stage it will need to apply other, complementary, IMTs.
"There are several IMTs to help raise creativity levels amongst employees," he
continues. "A firm could conduct
brainstorming sessions to identify the most
promising ideas and then set up teams to develop specific projects. Human
resources management is also critical to the
innovation process, and
closely related to creativity development. Diagnostic IMTs can be used to
identify new market opportunities. Companies need to reduce the time lag between
spotting a gap in the market and actually exploiting it."
Making It Happen
introduction of IMTs requires investment of time and management commitment, more
than additional finances. Nevertheless, firms are often reluctant to change. "It
is crucial that they understand the advantages of applying these techniques,
which are often long-term, and not immediately obvious," says Hidalgo. The study
singles out four agents as the main drivers of the innovation management culture
- academic centres, business schools, consultancy firms and business support
These agents are found to be largely responsible for promoting and developing
innovation management methodologies. For instance, the Belgian BSO, EFQM,
promotes a specific model of management and innovation through its 'EFQM
Excellence Model'. This provides firms with a platform of good practice and
benchmarking tools to facilitate self-assessment and the discovery of creative
approaches to management problems. Another example from Scotland's Glasgow
Business School helps companies to apply IMTs that produce measurable results –
which typically means more customers and greater profits. It applies different
tools to meet different needs,
particularly brainstorming and benchmarking, and
teaches its client how to apply them properly.
"The results of implementing IMTs are difficult to measure, but some mechanisms
do exist," says Hidalgo. "Impacts usually take the form of improved financial
results, such as a better return on investment. More new products may also be
brought to market in a shorter time.
The study's final report published in January 2004 covers:
Innovation management in
knowledge-driven economy: the issues. Setting a conceptual framework.
- Analysis and review of selected methodologies to
facilitate the exploitation of innovation in firms.
- Innovation management drivers: major actors in the
development of methodologies.
- Business relevance of innovation management
- Conclusions and outlook.
The study will
also include a series of illustrative case studies.