• Ménage à trois

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    Real Carpio So

    Real Carpio So

    Often misunderstood, innovation is not invention. Invention is the creation of a novel or new idea. Innovation is making the invention useful, profitable and sustainable. It is not doing it better, but doing it differently.

    Thomas Edison tinkered with the light bulb. General Electric developed it for multiple commercial use. IBM desktop computers came in fixed factory specifications. Michael Dell customized them according to order specifications. Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone. Steve Jobs made one that also plays music, videos, and takes photos.

    Almost all the time, innovations are credited to one or two persons. This is misleading.

    In his book “The Innovators,” author Walter Isaacson emphasized that innovation is a result of collaborative process. Although the seeds of the digital era were already planted more than a century ago, they bloomed only in the latter part of the 20th century.

    Isaacson identified three factors that ushered in the digital era. One, there was government funding and coordination. Funding during the period between World War II and the Cold War gave birth to the ENIAC/ARPANET, the precursors of the electronic computer and Internet. Two, there was opportunity for private businesses and enterprise. The profit motive prompted investments in corporate research centers and venture capital. These compelled innovations in the development of transistors, chips, computer, phones, devices and Web services. These businesses include Bell Labs, Xerox PARC, ATARI, Apple, among others. And three, there was participation of peer-based groups. Driven by common interests and passions, these groups created, generated and distributed products for free. Examples are the LINUX OS and Wikipedia.

    The presence of these three factors provided the platforms for interactions. Innovation is an eventuality.

    In the Triple Helix Model of Innovation, the concept is almost congruent. Introduced by Henry Etzkowitz and Loet Leydesdoff, the triple helix is used as a metaphor to describe the interconnection and operations of three institutional spheres: university, industry and the government. This is a shift from the current dominant role of industry and government in innovation.

    The fundamental role of the university is the preservation and transmission of knowledge. With students, it has a continual source of ideas and innovations. The government provides and guarantees the rules of the game. This is realized through enactment of laws and provision of incentives. Industry produces goods and services. It spurs economic activity.

    The interaction among university, industry and the government begins as they enter into reciprocal relationships with each other. Universities interact with industry to make student learning relevant. As a result, new ideas and concepts are developed that industry transforms into profitable products. Academic research provides the government with scientific basis to address local or national issues. Economic activity increases when the government supports industry.

    As interaction progresses, the university is compelled to take a more prominent role, at the same level as the industry and the government. Moreover, each of the three is expected to go beyond its own role and “takes the role of other.” Thus, universities may serve as incubation platforms for new ventures. Businesses may engage in higher levels of training. And government may act as venture capitalist by providing seed funds.

    University. Industry. Government. Literally, a household of three.

    Real Carpio So lectures on strategic and human resource management at the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. He is also an entrepreneur and a management consultant. He welcomes comments at realwalksonwater@gmail.com. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.

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