Skip to content
Featured image: Innovation Updates in May

Innovation Updates in May

In our monthly innovation updates, we provide you with an overview of the most relevant insights, best practices & tools from the innovation cosmos.

1. The Decade of Action: Sustainability & Innovation 2030

On 22 April, the world celebrated Earth Day - a day dedicated to our planet and its protection. Time to make ourselves aware that climate change and its dramatic consequences are on the rise and that the need for innovations that support a sustainable future has never been higher.

January 2020 kicked off what environmentalists are referring to as the Decade of Action. With just eight years remaining to meet the goals set out in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, there’s a greater sense of urgency to increase our collective efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change and limit global warming to 1.5º Celsius (2.7º Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by 2030. 

In this context, businesses will face growing consumer and regulatory pressure to play their part to mitigate the escalating climate crisis. Climate resilience will become a crucial consideration throughout operations and value chains, and investors will increasingly expect climate risk assessments as the climate becomes a more urgent concern. 

There are several forces shaping the sustainability landscape that businesses can respond to. These can be categorized into three broad change areas:

The Conscious Consumer

Consumers who are concerned about climate change and ecosystem collapse – particularly Millennials and Gen Z – are increasingly “voting with their wallets”, supporting brands and products that embody sustainability principles. As conscious consumers put more pressure on businesses to align their values and practices with their own, a growing number of companies are making changes to their sourcing, distribution, packaging, operations, and offerings.

Related trends:

  • Sustainable Packaging 
  • Sustainable Travel 
  • Sustainable Diets
Tech and R&D for SDGs

Advances in technologies – such as next-generation mobile internet, artificial intelligence, automation, data analytics, the Internet of Things, blockchain, and alternative energy production and storage – hold the power to address and alleviate some of our most pressing and complex environmental and social problems, bringing us closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Related trends:

  • Electromobility 
  • Revisiting Plastics 
  • Automating a Greener World
  • Sustainable Building Practices

Systems-Level Response

In order to effect real change and meet our climate change mitigation targets, a systems-level approach is needed. While the efforts of the individual certainly can and do make a difference, it pales in comparison to the impact large corporations, investors, and policymakers can have when sustainability goals inform their decision-making, investments, and operations.

Related trends:

  • Land-Use and Management 
  • Circular Solutions 
  • Supply Chain Changes  
  • Resource-Efficient Solutions 
  • Investing in Human Capital 
  • Sustainable Finance & ESG Investing

The need for innovation that supports a sustainable future has never been more urgent. At ITONICS, we believe that it is up to innovation executives and leaders to engage across all levels of industry to ensure sustainable growth and integrated resilience.

Download: Innovation & Sustainability Trend Report 

A trend report about the disruptive forces shaping the sustainability landscape. View your innovation strategy through a new lens and get inspired to create an innovation roadmap that supports a sustainable future.

Free Download: Sustainability & Innovation 2030

2. Five Causes for Failing to Scale

While some ideas, products, and companies grow and thrive, others fail to scale. A newly published Harvard Business Review article highlights five causes why a promising idea can lose efficacy or profitability as it expands:

1. False Positives 

If your idea relies on data or evidence that is inaccurate, it leads to a false positive. This is problematic because it signals a potential where there actually is none. A false positive either occurs because of a statistical error or intentional lying. 

A way to avoid false positives is to have at least three independent replications of a promising idea and to incentivize your employees to question data.

2. Biased Representativeness of Population

To scale an idea, you need to understand the potential target group. Therefore, it must be ensured that your test sample is representative and reflects the larger population. Choosing a random sample helps to avoid selection bias. Offering incentives to participants also encourages them to tell the truth.

3. Non-Negotiables That Can’t Grow or Be Replicated

In order to hold strong at scale, the drivers of your idea’s or business’ success, the “non-negotiables”, should be replicable and resistant to certain constraints (like regulatory or resource constraints).

4. Negative Spillovers

As your idea or business scales, the likelihood of spillover effects increases. A spillover effect is an unintended impact that one event or outcome can have on another. A good example in the article is when a city opens a new factory, and the air pollution it produces impacts the health of nearby residents. When developing your idea, you need to anticipate negative spillovers at an early stage and look for opportunities to create and leverage positive ones. 

5. The Cost Trap

To ensure your idea scales successfully, you also need to know what your target group is willing to pay for your product or service and how much it costs to provide it. Two costs have to be covered: fixed costs that arise upfront and operating costs. The second can become problematic if they are too high for your potential customers' willingness to pay.

One way to avoid the cost trap of scaling is to ensure that you benefit from economies of scale. One example cited is Tesla, whose success stems from economies of scale in its two most important components: batteries and solar power generation cells, both of which can be manufactured significantly cheaper in higher numbers. Another way is to create products that do not rely on top-tier talent and provide full value to customers also with average performers. 

Once you anticipate and avoid the obstacles mentioned above, you can scale your idea or business to the greatest extent possible.

Announcement of the Month: Siemens Energy has joined our growing community of Innovation Rockstars! 

ITONICS is the new innovation management solution to help accelerate digitalization, innovation & cybersecurity across Siemens Energy. Read on!



3. Our Tech of the Month: Biomimetic Devices

Earth Day (22 April) serves as a reminder to support and take action toward achieving greater levels of environmental protection, conservation, and sustainability. The acceleration of sustainable innovation is needed to meet these challenges—and where better to look for these solutions than in nature itself?

Biomimetic devices use biomimicry as inspiration to engineer solutions whose functions imitate biological processes. These devices mimic biological efficiency and are engineered to overcome natural biology's limitations through nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics, or sensors

Using nature as a model, systems, and design thinking are present at multiple stages in the biomimetic development pipeline. This, in turn, benefits the medical, scientific, and engineering fields. The aerospace industry, in particular, presents several innovative use cases for biomimetic devices

The aerospace industry is drawing from nature for more efficient energy consumption methods. Technological and structural advancements have been made based on the morphology and movement of manta rays, humpback whales, and perhaps most notably, albatrosses—which uses their large wingspan and air currents to be one of the most energy-efficient animal travelers. The patterns of geese flying in a V-shaped formation have also been imitated to significantly reduce energy consumption without structural adaptations.

Biomimicry is also applied for manufacturing efficient aerial vehicles with lightweight and shape optimization features. Inspired by owls and other bird feathers, these lightweight crafts enhance maneuverability, reduce drag, and suppress aerodynamic noise. Moreover, bio-inspired wings consume less energy compared to conventional wings. However, availability and precision remain challenges.

Airbus has launched multiple biomimicry projects in support of its aim to make the aviation sector more sustainable. It has innovated an "eXtra Performance Wing," inspired by the ability of eagles to alter the shape, span, and area of their wings. This ability allows eagles to optimize their aerodynamic performance continuously. Airbus' extra-performing wing integrates technologies that enable active control, which, if realized, will increase flight efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

To explore more technologies related to sustainability, check out the Sustainability Tech Radar containing 30 solution drivers that are most relevant to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


4. Fact of the Month: Must-Haves for Innovations in Sustainability

In recent years, consumer buying behavior has changed and environmental sustainability has become increasingly important. This has led to more and more manufacturers developing new innovations to meet the demand for sustainable products.

As part of a survey performed for Deloitte’s 2022 Consumer Products Industry Outlook, consumer packaged good (CPG) executives were asked what they consider must-haves for making innovations in sustainability happen.

The result: companies indicate that new technologies are most needed to succeed in their innovation efforts.


Read on if you want to learn more!

5. Your Monthly Dose of Innovation

You are always looking for new sources of inspiration, and you are a podcast fan? Check out these two lists of the best innovation podcasts and find your new favorite!

  1. 60 Best Innovation Podcasts by FeedSpot
  2. 13 Best Innovation Podcasts for 2022Innovation-Rockstars-Podcast

Our tip: the Innovation Rockstars Podcast (hosted by ITONICS CEO Chris Mühlroth) - #9 of the 60 best innovation podcasts. Tune in!


New call-to-action