Technological Innovation Hiding in Plain Sight: How Manufacturing Processes Transform Society without Leaving a Trace
17 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2019
Date Written: October 16, 2019
We describe “fundamental process innovations” — a class of technological innovations that emerge from rethinking the strategy by which a series of steps are organized and executed — in the context of manufacturing. These innovations have revolutionized society in domains as diverse as materials, energy, electronics, and healthcare. In this perspective, we explain why fundamental process innovation is frequently overlooked or misunderstood and provide a framework to understand the mechanisms by which it occurs. We next highlight eight process innovations that shaped the modern world and describe how they fit within our framework. These historical examples reveal a set of characteristics common to all fundamental process innovations, from identifying a viable pathway to scale-up to stimulating new directions of scientific pursuit. Our aim is to expand the conversation around process innovation to include manufacturing, advance a set of core principles, and motivate a dialogue among scientists, technologists, and policymakers about how we can best invest in such innovations going forward.
Keywords: manufacturing, process, innovation, electronics, healthcare, materials, energy
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