Editor’s note: The RTP Product Pipeline is a regular feature in WRAL Local Tech Wire. Its purpose is to help entrepreneurs, business leaders, educators and inventors better understand the product commercialization process. Montie Roland and Thomas Vass are co-founders of The RTP Product Development Guild, Inc. Their column appears weekly.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – The newly-formed RTP Product Development Guild, Inc., has an unusual goal: Promote maximum rates of regional economic growth by following author and economist Joseph Schumpeter’s insight about the forces of creative destruction of technological innovation.
Clayton Christensen, of Harvard University, has written extensively about how creative disruption occurs in large multinational corporations, and we apply much of his theory to regional economics. In his case, he is trying to advise the senior executives how to avoid being disrupted by rapid technological change. In our case, we are trying to promote rapid technological change in the RTP because we think that type of change creates new wealth and new market opportunities for the greatest number of citizens.
Our Guild is a real- time experiment applying some of Clayton Christensen’s ideas about disruptive technology to the Research Triangle region of North Carolina. We suspect that promoting regional technological disruption will cause the regional gross domestic innovation (RGDI) to increase.
No organization or entity in the RTP monitors and records data related to the concept of gross domestic innovation. We think this is a mistake and we agree with an international economist Balkrishna Rao, who suggests that “in the foreseeable future, developed countries will have to indulge in more innovation to adapt to a new reality…The millennium will witness a significant thrust by developed countries to be ever-innovative, especially, as more and more of knowledge-based tasks are outsourced to their brethren around the world.”
Our Guild will modify the geographical focus of Rao from his emphasis on countries to a focus on our local metro regional economy. We suspect that regions, not countries, are the hot-bed incubators of technological innovation. Chistensen has called the kind of technological innovation that we hope to promote “disruptive” technology. He contrasts disruptive technology with the more common form of innovation, which he calls sustaining innovations made primarily to existing products.
We are very optimistic about our chances of success in reaching our goal in the RTP. We are applying a new regional theory of innovation to guide us in our experiment, called Structural Evolutionary Regional Economic Theory, (SERET). One of the tangible outcomes predicted by SERET is an increased birth rate of new ventures and new innovative products, which are the main results we suspect we will see at the end of our experiment.
The increased birth rate of new ventures occurs as a result of technology from two parent products being crossed. An example may be like the cell phone technology that was crossed with photographic technology. Two parent product innovation leads to the greatest rate of new venture creation, which ultimately leads to the emergence of new markets. Or, so the theory predicts.
One departure our Guild is making from the status quo way of thinking about regional economic growth and entrepreneurial initiatives related to our effort is a de-emphasis on government and non-profits as the engines of innovation. We do not think innovation can be controlled by the forces of government. We suspect that government and non-profits actually get in the way of innovation by their political allegiance to the status quo way of doing things.
That is why we have created a for-profit private corporation called the RTP Product Development Guild. The Guild will administer teams of product development consultants drawn from the main professional practice areas outlined in our Guild’s product innovation model.
The six member teams will provide six months of free advice to individuals who are in the fuzzy front end of product development. The teams will follow the innovation model of the Guild and apply some of the theoretical principles of innovation described by both Christensen and by Vass in his recent book, “Predicting Technology.”
Montie Roland and Thomas Vass are co-founders of The RTP Product Development Guild, Inc The purpose of the Guild is to provide consultancy services to startups and small companies across a wide variety of specialties. Guidance will focus on commercializing product ideas and technology. Roland is president of the Carolinas Chapter of the Product Development Management Association. Vass is an investment advisor and owner of Private Capital Market, an Internet-based private equity firm.