To begin with, it is important to distinguish clearly between the concepts of discovery and innovation, which are two related but quite different concepts.
A discovery is a new understanding of a phenomenon. It is most often a matter of research and does not necessarily have immediate practical application.
In contrast, innovation is about the willingness to solve a concrete problem.
Bill Aulet, a professor at MIT in Boston, uses the following simple equation to define innovation:

Innovation = Invention x CommercialiZation

Innovation is thus characterized by its implementation; it is both a path - the path from the idea to the market - and its point of arrival: a new product or service adopted by its users.

Innovation is ultimately an economic process that exploits a novelty to bring benefits to as many people as possible, an idea that has been successfully implemented.
See also the article «The main major innovations in Vaud» .

The Oslo Manual, which sets out the guidelines for the collection and interpretation of innovation data from OECD countries, identifies four categories of innovation: product (goods or service provision), process, organization and marketing.

Incremental or breakthrough

Innovations can be incremental, aiming at a progressive improvement, or breakthrough, by proposing a dramatic evolution in relation to what already exists.

According to Nathalie Nyffeler, head of the "Innokick" master's degree in innovation at the HES-SO, «there are no specific statistics on Swiss companies to assess the type of innovation they implement. In addition, it would still be necessary to be able to categorize between breakthrough and incremental innovations. It is generally said that more than 90% of innovations in companies are incremental innovations».

This is probably also the case in the canton of Vaud where many incremental innovations are developed by SMEs and established companies. However, it happens that these companies also develop breakthrough innovations. And this is becoming more and more the case when we also consider the innovations of start-ups resulting from scientific research. Vaud's innovation is thus becoming more and more disruptive.

Why it is important

For an economy, innovation is a vital process by which its business fabric is renewed and transformed. This is not insignificant. Some waves of innovation can leave significant scars when they make certain industries obsolete (as for example the Internet has done with a large part of the travel agent or record store industry).

Economic well-being and innovation are linked over time


However, in the long term, there is a very strong link between economic well-being (measured for example in terms of GDP per capita growth) and the level of innovation in an economy (measured in particular in terms of the share of research and development expenditure in relation to GDP).