Innovation Evaluation Programs: Do They Help the Inventors?

By Bowman-Upton, Nancy; Seaman, Samuel L. et al. | Journal of Small Business Management, July 1989 | Go to article overview

Innovation Evaluation Programs: Do They Help the Inventors?


Bowman-Upton, Nancy, Seaman, Samuel L., Sexton, Donald L., Journal of Small Business Management


ABSTRACT: PROGRAMMES D'EVALUATION D'INNOVATION: AIDENT-ILS LES INVENTEURS?

Cet article analyse un programme d'evaluation d'innovation mis au point afin de fournir aux inventeurs une evaluation legitime et impartiale de leurs conceptions de nouveaux produits, pour les aider dans la prise de decision de commercialisation de ces derniers. Les resultats indiquent que les inventeurs tirent des conclusions positives de l'evaluation de praticabilite commerciale, et qu'une retro-action impartiale stimule la recherche. Le programme a eu des resultats heureux en encourageant la commercialisation de produits ayant des chances de succes sur le marche, et en decourageant le developpement plus avance de produits a praticabilite commerciale peu probable.

Programs designed to stimulate entrepreneurial activity have flourished in the past decade. The dramatic increase in numbers of innovation centers, incubators, small business development centers, and other governmentsponsored programs highlights the awareness of and importance of new venture development. Critical to the evolution of these programs is an accurate evaluation of their efficacy in nurturing innovations. Efforts to measure the impact and/ or effectiveness of innovation centers, incubators, entrepreneurship curricula, and various government programs have served a vital role in the fine-tuning of these interventions.

This article presents an empirical analysis of an innovation evaluation program designed to judge the commercial feasibility of new products or ideas. The need for research in this area has been emphasized by Sexton:

Academic inquiry can substantially help the private sector to supply the new products, processes, and services needed by society. . . . Many, if not most, new inventions never reach commercial fruition. Research can improve the innovation yield.

Crawford has also suggested the need for further research in the "inventor situation," calling for an examination of the expressed needs of inventors and their reactions to current invention assistance programs. With regard to the university's role in promoting innovation through university/industry relations, Baba called for the need to monitor, analyze, and assess the impact of these programs on economic development, industrial productivity, and on the university's teaching and research effort.

The inventor plays an important role in our economy. As Soufer notes, "Innovative new products are essential to the progress of any society." Wetzel adds that, "The independent inventor and entrepreneur who bring inventions to the marketplace are responsible for many of the major innovations of this century." Myers also notes that, "New industries or major shifts in industrial processes have typically been the result of radical innovations by a small business and/or inventor . . . ."

And yet, the inventor faces overwhelming odds in any effort to realize a financial gain from his or her bright idea." Three serious problems are typically encountered. The first is a lack of information about the innovation process. Second is the difficulty in obtaining legitimate, unbiased analysis of the product or idea which could assist in a decision to commercialize the product. A third problem is the financial community's hesitancy to fund inventors. Without outside funding, inventors are often forced to act as entrepreneurs and market their products without professional assistance. Anecdotal literature suggests that these efforts often fail, as the inventor does not perform well in the role of entrepreneur. However, some research has shown that inventive and entrepreneurial activity can be integrated.

The program described in this article focuses on the second problem, the difficulty in obtaining a legitimate and unbiased analysis of the new product idea. The need for legitimate and objective evaluation programs is evidenced by recent legislation designed to protect the inventor from unethical or dishonest "marketing" or "development" firms. …

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