Changing the innovation paradigm

Innovation gets funded with billions of $ all across the world. Hundreds of thousands of startups get founded every year. Yet 90% of the inventions, patented ideas, startups and corporate innovation labs do not succeed. If our crops would have been treated like our brain crops, humans would have extinct by now.


After a keynote at the European Commission’s Digital Agenda, I discussed a burning question with one of the officers. I asked: “Why is so much money poured into more and more inventions and innovative ideas but absolutely nothing in helping to get them to markets?” The answer was prompt and very clear: “Commercial success is the job of the entrepreneur, not of a government”. While I understood the rational behind the thinking, I still found it odd to let 90% of invested money evaporate, just because a more or less philosophical process. The result is not only lost opportunities but also widening the chasm between rich and poor, putting the leadership position of a nation in jeopardy and risking to loose talents who may find other nations more appealing.

Innovation that can’t be brought to market is of no value for the respective society and should not be funded with tax money.


The top venture investors nurture their investment from Idea to IPO. It’s the only way to get a significant return on investment. Plus they educate, mentor and coach their portfolio companies to bring them to maximum performance. And the result is stunning. instead of 90 % failure rate it’s only 75%. In other words they doubled the success rate of startups they have invested in. Unfortunately that is the tiny fraction of startups that had the privilege to move to Silicon Valley and get investments from some of the top VCs. But in the end, our “Innovation Crops” deliver a miserable 10% yield, while we know we could get it up to 25%.

We need to change the innovation paradigm


I guess we can agree that innovation is perceived a key driver for progress and growth. But is that true?  Is it the innovation or is it the ability to bring new and different products to market and attract a huge amount of people to support it, buy it or otherwise engage with it. A less innovative product that is produced in huge quantities and attract a large global market is most likely creating more jobs, more revenue, more profits and therefor more taxes for the local community than a product that is much more innovative but nobody knows about it therefor the company may not even survive. The true value of innovation is created at the time that product or service is hitting large markets and get a lot of business.


If we can agree that a value is only created when the companies grows, creates jobs and pay taxes, we should also agree that funding the urge of developing something is less important that funding the the need to bring it to market. Creative minds will build innovative products whether they get funded or not. But only if economic success is supported afterwards the innovation is gaining in value. And if the core driver for Innovation Funds is job creation and prosperity we may need to reconsider the funding strategy and put some money aside for every amount of money spent in the invention itself.


A new innovation support program needs to focus on commercial success more than anything else. That includes providing non bureaucratic processes and rules to actually be able to make global trade even as a startup. It means lowering regulatory barriers to an absolute minimum. It also means providing business education to leverage latest techniques for an efficient and successful go-to-market plan – something no university will ever be able to offer. And means that young startups are supported with international networks and concepts to leverage existing trade networks. And of course that some of the funds available for the invention itself is also made available to kick start the commercial success.


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