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What is disruptive innovation?

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What is disruptive innovation?

Innovation occurs all the time across all industries, but disruptive innovation can completely turn a sector on its head. Disruptive innovation transforms markets or industries, creates new markets or value networks, and can often take years, even decades for concepts to come to fruition.

Disruptive innovation was first coined by Clay Christensen from Harvard Business School in the early 90’s, who described it as “a technologically simple innovation in the form of a product, service, or business model that takes root in a tier of the market that is unattractive to the established leaders in an industry”.

While innovations modify or improve existing products or services, those that disrupt industries usually enter them unnoticed, but go on to create a concept that’s low-cost, unlocking a completely new, affordable and more mainstream, larger market.

Disrupting an industry can often take decades as disruptors gradually build a presence in the market. Some fail, others succeed, challenging established businesses within the sector to follow suit or risk being left behind. Eventually, many overtake as a key competitor in the industry.

Examples of disruptive innovation

The 20th century brought us many innovations that these days we often take for granted, but at the time were life changing. Television, airplanes, the internet, and computers, as well as health innovations such as vaccines and chemotherapy, have all helped develop the world we know and live in today.

Fast forward a century and innovation in the 21st century is transforming the way we communicate, shop, travel and eat.

Here are some examples of recent disruptive innovation:

  • With over 3 billion of us worldwide with smartphones, communicating with others, how we bank, and keep track of diaries is now just at our fingertips.
  • Social media has also transformed the way we communicate, helping news travels faster.
  • On demand viewing has disrupted how we watch TV with gamechangers such as Netflix and Amazon Prime entering the market. Traditional TV is having to adapt to keep up.
  • Virtual and augmented reality is set to change how we work and learn. And it’s not just for the gaming and entertainment sector, other industries such as car manufacturers, retailers and interior designers are using the technology too.
  • How we pay for things has changed, with online payment apps such as PayPal and Apple Pay, as well as new cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. No longer do we have to rely on paying with cash or cards.
  • Retail and e-commerce have also changed significantly as more people are shopping online than ever before, particularly during the pandemic. Being able to order something at the click of button and arriving within a few days, even the following day, on platforms such as Amazon has transformed online retail.


Additive manufacture and AI technologies

Additive manufacture, or 3D printing, one of our core services at the 3M BIC, is also set to change how we make and obtain things. Predominantly used in the manufacturing sector in product development, additive manufacture is already becoming more commonplace in other industries such as MedTech and the food industry.

From its transition from plastics to metals, additive manufacture is constantly evolving and as it becomes more affordable will become more mainstream and accessible to more industries, even consumers.

The limits for additive manufacture are endless. We are already seeing houses and other infrastructure such as bridges being printed, as well as bio-printing, which could see things such as organs, ears, noses and bone being creating using 3D printing capabilities.

Artificial intelligence is another disrupter. Once a thing of the future or something out of a sci-fi film, is gradually becoming part of our everyday lives. With the emergence of Industry 4.0, sophisticated technologies such as machine learning and deep learning, robotics and facial recognition are all disrupting the market, automating many processes that businesses and consumers use daily.

Innovation at the 3M BIC

Our design team uses generative design, a form of machine learning, that can create multiple solutions for product development, creating products that are more light weight and durable, but also use fewer materials and less waste and in less time.

Our on-site additive manufacture and testing capabilities allow us to provide a holistic approach to product development. We can take our clients’ ideas to design, to testing, right through to creating the final product.

At the 3M BIC, we have clients that are disrupting med tech innovation, such as Innovate Orthopaedics that challenges the way medical devices are designed. It works directly with surgeons and academic institutions to create solutions to existing problems in surgery with a specific focus on sports injuries, using technology such as additive manufacture and microscopy. Since its conception in 2015, its products are now sold worldwide.

Another 3M BIC tenant, Adventoris, has adapted its advanced B2B mobile sales ordering app for B2C to enable food and drink manufacturers and suppliers to make a quick shift to sell their products directly to the consumer, to get rid of stock that would have gone to cafes and restaurants, but couldn’t due to the pandemic lockdown.

What disruptive technologies have you come across in 2020? Tweet us @3MBIC or drop us a line on LinkedIn.

For more information on the technologies at 3M BIC which can support your innovation ideas, click here.

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