Invention and Innovation: A Case Study in Metals
We explore an improved method for the measurement of innovation and innovative activity across long life-cycles especially where patentable technology plays a part in the innovation. In a previous publication we were able to distinguish four stages of a long life cycle. In this article we examine whether the patent life cycle and the production activity life cycle are related. Two conventional schools of thought commonly exist in reference to measurement of technical innovation, one suggesting the use of patents as the best indicator of innovative activity, and the other recommending alternative means, not using patent data. This article proposes a novel method of measurement utilizing yearly patent counts. A model was developed using nine metals whose yearly production activity was correlated with patent counts associated with the same materials. This correlated data was then entered into best-fit equations to obtain fitted patent and activity life cycle curves. Differences in the origins of these fitted curves were interpreted as lags of time in the life cycle of the patent or activity thus allowing for comparisons between patents and innovation activity. The behavior of the number of patents with time was found to be similar to production growth, making patents a measure and representation of technical innovation. In conclusion we were able to categorize the metals into three groups. Group 1, containing nickel and chromium, are metals whose patent activity is driving their production. Group 2, containing aluminum, zinc and copper, are metals in which production is driving the patenting. Group 3, which is composed of the Stage IV metals iron, manganese, molybdenum and tungsten, represents materials that have no current innovative activity that can be measured or correlated to the patent activity. The results suggest a fertile field of future research extending the initial pattern equation model to include R&D, Patents, and Performance, as well as Sales, as innovation activity. Further, the model shows promise for the analysis and assessment of existing and future industrial technology life cycles involving materials, processes, products, software and service innovations.
J. A. Sekhar and J. P. Dismukes
M. C. Connelly and J. A. Sekhar, "Invention and Innovation: A Case Study in Metals", Key Engineering Materials, Vol. 380, pp. 15-39, 2008