Innovation value chain

The innovation value chain displays various dimensions that can influence technological development such as the research itself, economic and regulatory aspects, and societal embedding. In real live, innovation processes are highly complex and neither smooth nor linear: the various steps within an innovation process occur not sequentially but influence each other [1, 2]. For example, science not only leads to innovation but new innovations can also require new research. The innovation value chain shown below makes an attempt to model innovation processes in a linear and simplified manner with arrows indicating feedback loops between the different dimensions. This model provides a starting point to think about chances and challenges in the innovation process.


The innovation value chain can be taken as guideline to analyze and discuss challenges during the innovation process expected for a certain technology. When considering a certain technology and potential applications, next to difficulties during research also challenges for the implementation of the technology in an industrial environment can be discussed. These can be the integration in common processes, the compatibility with standard methods and machines or commercial benefits or disadvantages of the new technology. Additionally, regulatory requirements often play an important role. The direct or indirect impact of the technology on the society should also be taken into account.

Evaluation of the innovation process along these dimensions can be seen as an exercise for researchers to be aware of potential difficulties. It would also be valuable to confirm such an analysis with relevant actors along the value chain, for example during an interview or a workshop, to take into account the different perceptions and add additional insight to the analysis.


A PhD student used the dimensions of the innovation value chain to evaluate four applications for the microfluidic bilayer platform she developed during her project, as displayed in the table: drug screening, testing of nanoparticle toxicity, cosmetic screening and using the platform for research. The four application areas were selected from a multi-path map that she created with other participants during a workshop. When comparing the different applications, it becomes clear that the innovation processes are different. In the case of drug screening, the technology must fit in the existing procedures and requirements that are present in pharmaceutical companies. Additionally, the technology must adapt to the regulatory framework. A direct impact on society is not envisioned for this application. In contrast, research can be driven by a demand in the society to reduce animal testing, as in the case of cosmetic screening, which leads to a requirement for new technologies that replace animal models. Here, the platform developed by the PhD student potentially could play a role. Research could also be triggered by new regulations for testing nanoparticle toxicity. In this case, the growing concern about nanotoxicity stimulates new accreditation procedures and therefore also new platforms that can contribute to determine the toxicity or safety of nanoparticles. A detailed discussion of the dimensions can be found in the thesis of the PhD student [3].

BLM = bilayer lipid membrane, N.A. = not available

Similarly, one envisioned application in a research project can be tested by looking at the different dimensions of the innovation value chain. In the case of another PhD project, a novel lipid-based coating has been evaluated. The coating consists of biological material and therefore no health risks are expected. Also the production of the molecules is comparable to existing methods which are already certified. However, it becomes clear that further evaluation and safety assessment of the linker molecule, which has not been tested yet, is necessary for commercialization of this technology as required by existing regulations. The novel biomaterial could be applied in clinical products such as implants where it could improve their functionality and therefore reduce the amount of surgery needed for revisions. More detailed information about the technology and this discussion can be found in his PhD thesis [4].


1. Kline, S.J. and N. Rosenberg, An Overview of Innovation, in The Positive Sum Strategy: Harnessing Technology for Economic Growth, R. Landau and N. Rosenberg, Editors. 1986, National Academy Press: Washington D.C. . p. 275-305.

2. Deuten, J.J., A. Rip, and J. Jelsma, Societal embedding and product creation management. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 1997. 9(2): p. 131-148.

3. Stimberg, V., Microfluidic Platform for Bilayer Experimentation - From a Research Tool towards Drug Screening, 2014, PhD thesis, University of Twente: Enschede.

4. van Weerd, J., Novel biomedical applications of supported lipid bilayers, 2015, PhD thesis, University of Twente: Enschede, The Netherlands.

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