By: Ryan Ayers
Have you ever wondered where great ideas come from? If your company has ever stalled for the lack of innovation, then you’ve probably thought about it from time to time. Innovative ideas can come from nothing, or from a long process of brainstorming and debate, but it always seems like some industries are consistently coming out with the best new products and processes, while others lag far behind. This isn’t your imagination; some industries are moving much more quickly than others. But which industries are the most innovative, and what sets them apart?
Forbes’ most recent number one innovative company on its list (though there is debate about the methodology of this analysis) is Tesla Motors, leading manufacturer of electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles. The automotive industry has seen incredible innovation in the last few years, ever since autonomous vehicles arrived on the scene, and automakers started examining alternatives to fossil fuels to power cars. At the 2017 CES show, new models of autonomous vehicles arrived on the floor, ready to take the steering out of our hands.
The tech industry has been growing nonstop over in the last few decades, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Companies are competing with one another to develop the coolest new gadgets, from the next smartphone to smart drones that can improve mapping. There is a lot of money in the tech industry, and even as manufacturing costs go down, well-funded companies have the ability to innovate the next big product in tech, like augmented reality and IoT (Internet of Things) devices.
New drugs are always emerging on the market, and for good reason: everyone wants better drugs with fewer side effects. The pharmaceutical industry is a big business, and the research and development side of the industry is constantly coming up with new formulas that are (at least usually) improvements on their predecessors. Spending $140 billion per year on R&D and releasing many new drugs each year, the pharmaceutical industry is always innovating, and files many, many patents per year. In 2014, the industry filed 12% more patents than it did in 2013!
In the healthcare industry, people’s lives are on the line, and researchers are always innovating to improve treatments and outcomes for patients. Working closely with other industries, like pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology researchers, companies in the healthcare industry develop new medical devices, processes, and treatments that help people live healthier lives.
Biotechnology is based on innovation, so it’s not surprising that this industry makes the list. It contributes to many other industries, including agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing, and aquatics, making the field versatile and highly innovative. One challenge the industry faces, however, is public opinion. While public opinion on some areas of biotechnology is very positive (cloning a person’s cells for use in medical procedures has a 91% approval rating), other applications of the industry are viewed negatively (only 37% believe genetically modified food is safe). As time goes on, public opinion does evolve, but distrust from the public has been a stumbling block for innovation past a certain point.
Why are These Industries So Far Ahead?
There are several factors that could be in play to explain why some industries are way ahead of others in innovation. One factor is that a large number of new businesses are being created in these industries—tech startups are growing quickly (and many are failing fast). These businesses have innovation baked into their culture from the time they’re founded, and they have to innovate to survive—it’s a tough business.
Healthcare organizations, pharmaceutical, and biotech firms have some intense motivation to innovate: their products help people live healthier lives. While it might seem that treatments for some health problems develop slowly, there are new breakthroughs every day in these industries.
Of course, all business is, at its core, fueled by two main objectives: solve problems for the consumer and out-innovate the competition to fuel more consistent and rapid growth. Other industries don’t have to change as quickly, since their products and services don’t become obsolete as quickly.
Promoting Innovation in Your Organization
While your company might not be coming out with the next autonomous vehicle, you don’t have to be in one of these 5 industries to make innovation a priority at your organization. If you haven’t given much thought to innovation in the past, start small. Organize brainstorming sessions to solve your customers’ biggest problems. Start making innovation a priority in your organization, and the great ideas will follow.
By Ryan Ayers
About the author
Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, with a keen focus on data collection and analysis.