With the World Economic Forum kicking off today in Davos, Switzerland, the buzz is centering on how different economies — all with unique geographies and development histories — can do one thing: Innovate and grow.
To help shed light on the opportunities — and the roadblocks — GE released a first-of-its-kind report today based on an independent survey of 1,000 business executives in 12 countries. The “GE Global Innovation Barometer” found that 95 percent of respondents believe innovation is the main lever for a more competitive national economy. But just how to accomplish that will take a uniquely 21st century path, as respondents are prioritizing technology that addresses local needs; looking for innovation from smaller organizations; and pursuing strategic partnerships to make tangible innovation happen. All of these areas are converging as problems are now bigger — which involves a wider system of players.
Beth Comstock, chief marketing officer and senior vice president, GE, said the study illustrates that the rules around innovation are changing. Companies must “embrace a new innovation paradigm that promotes collaboration between all players — big, small, public, and private — fosters creativity, and emphasizes solutions that meet local needs.”
Comstock, who is a WEF panelist this year, added that the results reveal that “the new face of innovation” has shifted from “innovations that simply make money to innovations that also create good in people’s lives.” In the survey, more than three-quarters of executives (77%) said they believe the greatest innovations of the 21st century will be those that help address human needs, such as improving health quality or enhancing energy security, more than those that simply create the most profit. They believed innovation would be a catalyst for improving multiple areas of citizens’ lives in the next 10 years, including health quality (87%), environmental quality (85%), energy security (82%), and access to education (81%).
The survey also found that there is a focus on new players when it comes to innovating, with 75 percent of respondents saying that the way companies innovate in the 21st century will be “totally different” than the way they innovated in the past. The same percentage said that more than ever, individuals and small- to mid-size enterprises (SMEs) will be as innovative as large companies.
At the same time, 76 percent of executives said that innovation must be tailored to local market needs.
Click to enlarge: At GE, local technology can be seen in “reverse innovation” strategies currently playing out in key markets such as China and India, both of which have major GE R&D centers.
In terms of collaborations, 86 percent said that 21st century innovation is about partnerships between several entities as opposed to the success of a single organization.
Click to enlarge: The focus on partnerships at GE can be seen in the $200 million open innovation ecomagination Challenge, which just started its second phase. It’s open to anyone with an innovative idea — with some of the best ones receiving venture capital investments or R&D help to bring their solutions to market on a global scale.
The new global survey follows the release in September of the “GE Innovation Barometer” that focused on the European Union and surveyed 240 Brussels opinion leaders. The new survey was commissioned by GE and conducted by research and consulting firm StrategyOne.
* See the full survey results
* Read today’s announcement
* Read more WEF stories on GE Reports
* Read about our recent EU Innovation Barometer launched in September 2010