Innovation is the backbone of knowledge and progress

Innovation: anything that solves an urgent problem for one person.
— James Altucher

The history is littered with evidence that stagnation always leads to a decline. Societies can either go forward or regress back to where they started, and in each generation there are a few talented individuals willing to think outside the box that provide the initial impetus for the change.

The innovation process was always painstakingly slow and faced with resistance from conservative corners of the community, but it could never be stopped or shepherded in a predictable direction. The same remains true today.

The triumph of the inquisitive spirit
 

Everywhere you look, there are mysteries of nature just begging to be explained. The universe moves in its own rhythm, leaving humanity to seek for logical patterns and causal links between events. When you think about it, some of the most basic amenities of modern life – such as running water or refrigerated food – required sophisticated mechanisms to be designed and tested in practice. The fact that human intelligence was sufficient to solve these and other problems in a decisive manner should be seen as a great accomplishment and a reason for optimism for the future.

 

It’s a long way from Icarus to Boeing
 

Any technological feat is consisted of many small steps forward. The dream of flight wasn’t realized overnight – Greek mythology brings up the story of Icarus and Daedalus for the first time, though it will be many long centuries before Wright brothers turn the vision into an actionable plan. The process of gradual improvement didn’t stop there, as the aviation industry diligently worked to increase technical capacities of the planes and to make airborne travel more comfortable. A single look at a contemporary passenger airliner is enough to show you the evolution of the concept through many engineering cycles and the future is just as exciting.

 

A sudden strike of lighting can change everything
 

While it’s true that the nature of innovation is incremental, there are singularly important breakthroughs that can completely redefine how things are done in certain fields. Discoveries of this kind are rare, but when they happen there is no telling what kind of upheaval they may cause. We’ve seen a series of paradigm shifts in this sense – for example a switch to electric lighting instead of candles and torches. Early adopters often stand to gain a lot in such a situation, since the novelty factor might freeze some of the old-guard participants in the market, providing some space for savvy operators to exploit.

 

Tomorrow is a new challenge
 

Life may be more comfortable today than it was 2000 years ago, yet many vital problems remain without solution, while a number of technologies still carry high potential for advancement. The role of an innovator is traditionally a challenging one, as many obstacles need to be cleared before the objectives can be reached, yet there are very few more rewarding jobs out there. One thing is certain – the need for creative thinking and daring experimentation will never diminish, it can only become more widely recognized as essential.

We are on the cusp of entering a new era with breakthroughs in energy, medicine, material science and autonomy through artificial intelligence.

It's important that innovators are supported to bring this kind of change forward. Thankfully we have an abundance of spacesincubatorssupport programmes and grants that enable us to empower innovators into creating game-changing new technology.

James Lethem