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Process

Innovation is the result of an exchange of information between people—individuals with a stake in the success of a particular invention. Some innovators divide the process into a series of carefully described steps, beginning with an idea and strictly following a series of guidelines to generate a sellable product or service. They may even approach the creative process in this structured way, making detailed lists of ideas and theories.

Others see innovation as an organic process, involving constant feedback and revisions. They bounce ideas back and forth, engage in brainstorming sessions and encourage constructive criticism of their ideas.

In either case, before innovation can happen, there must be an actual concept, invention or novel use of existing knowledge. Inventors first identify the problem they want to solve. Then they explore and build upon previous knowledge, often by examining existing and expired patents. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) outlines the conditions an inventor must meet for their creation to be considered an "invention," and provides a searchable database of Canadian patents. Likewise, Industry Canada hosts a website Opportunity Match that provides by e-mail regular intelligence on technology opportunities at Canadian universities, research centres, and federal and provincial laboratories.

Scientist working in isolation in their laboratory.After confirming their idea is original, an inventor focuses on the specifics: what they want to accomplish, their approach and the actual physical act of inventing a prototype for patenting. The patent application process helps inventors work through the steps required to secure a patent and begin development. This is when an inventor begins to fully explore the tangible potential of their original concept.

Before a new product or service can be commercialized and marketed, it typically undergoes a period of refinement. Companies examine the resources needed to integrate the invention, and existing market conditions like competition and consumer demand. To deal with a large number of potential innovations, many Alberta companies, like those in the petroleum industry, utilize an economic formula based on costs, rates, geographical factors and market issues to help them calculate benefits and risks.

Once all avenues and possibilities have been explored in the theoretical phase, and it is decided that it would be profitable to proceed, entrepreneurs and organizations enter a research and development phase. Industry professionals might be sought out to provide input in their areas of expertise. Typically, innovators use this phase to secure the financing needed to begin mass production and supply information to prove their invention will have a positive impact on markets and society as a whole.

Lab TechniciansOnce the kinks have been worked out, proper promotion can help take an invention from obscurity to common use. Trade shows, industry fairs, and media and advertising campaigns provide support for new inventions and make them accessible to a wider audience.

Finally, the process of innovation also allows for a reflective step, where its impact on society is evaluated. Both the expected and unexpected outcomes are taken into consideration. Often the introduction of competition or changes in the market will shed light on an innovation, generating new inventive ideas or possibilities for growing and adjusting the existing technology. Thus, the process of innovation is cyclical. Invention leads to innovation, which in turn inspires the creativity needed to foster the inventive spirit.

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