Linear model of innovation

The Linear Model of Innovation is an early model of innovation that suggests technical change happens in a linear fashion from Invention to Innovation to Diffusion.

It prioritises scientific research as the basis of innovation, and plays down the role of later players in the innovation process.

Current models of innovation deriving from approaches such as Actor-Network Theory, Social shaping of technology and social learning (e.g. Tuomi, (2002)[1]),provide a much richer picture of the way innovation works.

Current ideas in Open Innovation and User innovation derive from these later ideas.

Also known as ‘Traditional Phase Gate Model’, under this model, product or services concept is frozen at early stage so as to minimize risk. Also innovation process in enterprise involves series of sequential phases/steps arranged in such a manner that the preceding phase must be cleared before moving to next phase. Thus a project must pass through a gate with the permission of gatekeeper before moving to the next succeeding phase.

Criteria for passing through each gate, and the person at each gate are defined beforehand. The gatekeeper examines whether the stated objectives for preceding phase have been properly met or not and whether desired development has taken place at the preceding phase or not.

Two versions of the linear model of innovation are often presented:

  1. "technology push" model
  2. "market pull" model.

From the 1950s to the Mid-1960s, the industrial innovation process was generally perceived as a linear progression from scientific discovery, through technological development in firms, to the marketplace, Rothwell (1994)[2] The stages of the "Technology Push" model are:

Basic science→Design and engineering→Manufacturing→Marketing→Sales

From the Mid 1960s to the Early 1970s, emerges the second-generation Innovation model, referred to as the "market pull" model of innovation. According to this simple sequential model, the market was the source of new ideas for directing R&D, which had a reactive role in the process. The stages of the "market pull " model are:

Market need—Development—Manufacturing—Sales.

The linear models of innovation supported numerous criticisms concerning the linearity of the models. These models ignore the many feedbacks and loops that occur between the different "stages" of the process. Shortcomings and failures that occur at various stages may lead to a reconsideration of earlier steps and this may result in an innovation. A history of the linear model of innovation may be found in Godin (2006)[3]

See also


  1. Tuomi, Ilkka (2002). Networks of Innovation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2. Rothwell, Roy,(1994),Towards the Fifth-generation Innovation Process,in: International Marketing Review,Vol.11,No 1,1994,pp.7-31
  3. Godin, Benoit (2006). "The Linear Model of Innovation: The Historical Construction of an Analytical Framework" (PDF). Science, Technology & Human Values. 31: 639–667. doi:10.1177/0162243906291865.
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