Innovation = invention + commercialization: a systems perspective
2. highly qualified people with advanced degrees.
The first output defines the main thrust of the research system from the perspective of researchers, but the second one is often considered equally or even more important, particularly by many industrial leaders. Inventions are not an output of the basic research system; it was set up for discovery, not invention.
The invention system
The invention system related to basic research is shown in figure 2. Its output is an invention, the culmination of three steps: i) formulating an idea for an invention based on the research and usually done by researchers themselves, ii) recognizing that it might indeed have the potential to become a new product in the market, and iii) demonstrating that potential to those who will pay for defining the invention, improving it, patenting it, etc. Figure 2 also shows that the market is part of the invention system since it is the locus of any commercial opportunities that the invention might present. Steps ii) and iii) usually require expert help from people who specialize in recognizing inventions. Generally, that work is done within the university. Some universities have the funds to pay for it themselves; others rely on external funding.
Inventions arising out of the results of basic research are considered potential intellectual property (IP). They are communicated by disclosure to the institution.5 Publication of the underlying research results is generally delayed until the necessary first steps of patent protection have been taken. Such inventions are outputs of the research and contributions to knowledge that could prove very important, but in the Canadian university culture, they are generally considered less valuable for the careers of professors than discoveries published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature or graduate students successfully supervised.The commercialization system
The commercialization system is coupled to the invention system, and operates downstream of it. The connection between the two is made only when an invention has been recognized and demonstrated within the invention system. The next step is to demonstrate that potential to those who would pay for proving the concept of the invention, defining and improving the IP, and protecting it.
Not a linear process
This sequence of systems should not be interpreted as the "linear model" of innovation, according to which an innovation emerging out of basic research proceeds in linear fashion through a sequence of steps from discovery to product. On the contrary, each of our three systems is fraught with false starts, dead ends, changes in direction, and feedback loops, but in broad terms, invention follows research and commercialization follows invention.6
5 Disclosure is required by NSERC and independently by some universities.
6 This sequence would not hold in the case of innovation triggered by feedback from the customers of an established company, a mechanism that is widely believed to be the dominant driver of innovation in industry.