Today, the notion of innovation is widely used in research, economics, politics and other areas. While there is a common understanding that innovation means the generation of new ideas and/or knowledge, there is much less of a consensus on what can or should actually be considered ‘innovative’. Moreover, the meaning of innovation changed throughout the years: whereas innovation could have a negative connotation up to the early 20th century, it is nowadays seen as a key factor for long-term economic growth and international competitiveness.
Enhancing military capabilities
Innovation can be defined as the creation and application of new products, services and processes. This includes the creation of a new technology, product, process or service, as well as the application of an existing technology to a different problem or domain. By introducing innovative technologies originating from other domains into the defence sector, both the initial investment risk and the lapse of time between the ideation and the delivery of a new military capability can be minimised. Nevertheless, innovation is not only meant to create new concepts but also to generate added value for end-users. Innovation in the defence sector should thus first and foremost aim at enhancing military capabilities.
In this context, innovation can be considered in different ways. A disruptive innovation is one which radically changes the way of operation (‘of doing things’), and therefore has a significant impact on market, on economic activity of firms, and as far as the defence sector is concerned, on the way in which armed forces operate. It uses enablers (technical or otherwise) and new paradigms to reach a level of performance that, over time, exceeds by far the limits of traditional, evolutionary advances. In contrast to disruptive innovations, incremental innovations enhance or improve the performance of existing products, services, processes, organisations or methods.