Strategy & Innovation

Innovation research: is it still necessary in 2023?

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At Dynergie, we've been involved in innovation research for over 4 years, so that we can provide our customers with ever-better support. Why is it relevant? Why is it necessary? What remains to be found in the world of innovation?

The vital importance of innovation

For 30 years, innovation has been recognized as a significant lever of competitive advantage. In an increasingly global and competitive world, innovation is becoming a matter of survival.

Innovation, complex and with a high risk of failure

Yet innovation remains an extremely complex activity, full of uncertainty and with far more failures than successes. Indeed, innovation success rates are estimated at between 10 and 25%. Conventional" projects have an estimated success rate of between 60 and 75%.

Whatever the type of innovation (technological, business model, process, etc.), the industry of origin, the target market, the type of customer (B2C, B2B), innovation is a profoundly uncertain and risky activity.

Companies therefore find themselves in a delicate situation: obliged to innovate, but faced with uncertainty as to the future of the projects in which they invest.

Research into innovation: a path strewn with pitfalls

Yet there has been no shortage of innovation research in recent decades. Many studies have sought to identify the factors that increase the probability of success for innovative projects.

I dedicated my 4-year thesis to identifying success factors for business model innovation in established companies (self-promo moment: the thesis is freely available online at theses.frand I hear it's quite good. Good enough for the jury to give me my doctorate and for Dynergie to hire me, anyway).

Several decades of research should have come up with something by now, shouldn't it? The fact is, innovation research has a number of problems that make it difficult to support companies in their innovation activities in the best possible way.

The abundance of success factors and their lack of consensus

Firstly, research has identified many success factors, but does not seem to be able to agree on which factors are actually linked to the success of innovations, nor on the importance of the factors identified in said success.

Each new scientific article seems to position a new factor as decisive for the success of innovative projects.

The limits of meta-studies and actionable recommendations

Second problem: some meta-studies attempt to identify the factors most often cited as influencing the success of innovations. But these factors are often organizational in nature, and difficult to apply to short-term results.

While it's obviously in a company's best interest to establish a culture and organization conducive to successful innovation, these actions generally take a long time to put in place, with visible results over the medium to long term. However, organizations also need actionable recommendations in the short term, to increase the success of their innovative projects and enable them to implement longer-term actions.

The questionable effectiveness of existing methods and tools

Third problem: the methods, tools and processes created to build these short-term successes are not yet fully proven. Admittedly, framed creativity approaches such as Design Thinking, or analytical approaches such as the TRIZ method, have become well-established in corporate innovation departments.

Lean Startup, the iterative method of confronting the market, has also cemented itself as the preferred method for startups, particularly in tech. Yet failure rates for innovative projects remain high, proving that we haven't yet cracked the innovation code.

Why persevere in innovation research?

For all these reasons, yes, innovation research is absolutely relevant in 2023. We believe that, in the face of increasingly important and pressing challenges, innovation is the key to improving the world and the lives of its inhabitants. It is therefore essential to continue to carry out advanced research, in order to offer companies the solutions they need to innovate more efficiently and with greater peace of mind.

Some sources:

Success rates for innovative projects:

1. Cozijnsen, A.J., Vrakking, W.J. and van IJzerloo, M. (2000), "Success and failure of 50 innovation projects in Dutch companies", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 150-159.



On the inconsistency of research into the success factors of innovation :

1. Van der Panne G., Van Beers C., Kleinknecht A. (2003), "Success and Failure of Innovation: A Literature Review", International Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 7 no. 3, pp. 309-338

2. But you only have to search for "innovation + success" in Google Scholar to see the multitude of factors.

3. On the subject of business model innovation alone, my thesis (self-promo moment n°2) lists a multitude of factors in the literature. And it's already a precise subject.

4. On the large number of organizational and cultural factors involved in successful innovation: Van der Panne G., Van Beers C., Kleinknecht A. (2003), "Success and Failure of Innovation: A Literature Review", International Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 7 no. 3, pp. 309-338.

Léa Bunnens

R&D Director - Doctor - Expert in Business Model innovation

With one foot in research and the other in innovation projects, Léa's main mission is to bring these two worlds closer together. On a daily basis, the projects she helps to bring to fruition enable her to build new methods and tools designed to increase the chances of success for subsequent projects. Her specialty: detecting the right opportunity, building the best possible idea, and offering it the optimal business model.

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