Naga Chokkanathan

Why Not? — Invention & Innovation

Posted on: December 10, 2010

What is the difference between Innovation and Invention?

According to US Patent laws, “Invention is a new, useful process, machine, improvement etc., that did not exist previously”. On the other hand, Innovation is defined as “Something new or different introduced”.

This means, all Inventions have to be innovations, But all Innovations needn’t be Inventions.

Confusing? I was looking for a good example and found it in Gutenberg’s First Printing Press.

File:Gutenberg.jpg

(Image Courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/)

Before Johann Gutenberg invented world’s first printing machine, manuscripts were handwritten to make multiple copies of the same book. Creating a new copy of a book may take few days, weeks, or even months. This was a very costly affair and it meant, you could only make limited copies of a book and knowledge sharing / spreading was restricted.

Gutenberg changed all these by introducing a mechanism to make multiple copies of the same book in a very short time / cost. His invention changed the world by creating a knowledge revolution.

(Image Courtesy: http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/44800/44880/44880_guten_press_lg.gif)

But when we dig further, we find that Gutenberg’s invention was really an innovation – He combined two existing machines to arrive at a new one. “Coin Punch + Wine Press = Printing Press” seems to be his formula.

In those days, Coin punches were used to make fine impressions on a piece of metal. Wine presses were used to squeeze out juice from the grapes, to make wine.

Gutenberg saw these two (unrelated) machines and thought ‘What if I add few coin punches in a wine press and make them print something on a paper, instead of a metal?’. He worked on a prototype, went through many iterations and finally printing press was born.

Two seemingly unrelated things, but their combination created a wonder machine which became the prime reason for increasing world’s knowledge manifolds!

(044)

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N. Chokkan …

10 12 2010

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