Spotlight on Ammon Salter

Professor Ammon Salter is Research Director for the UK~IRC working on network innovation. Here he talks about his work and the process of innovation

What is the UK Innovation Research Centre?

The Centre is a joint venture between Imperial College Business School and the Centre for Business Research at the University of Cambridge with the aim to further research and knowledge exchange on innovation policy and practice. The UK~IRC involves a large-scale research programme and a knowledge hub that seeks to engage policy-makers and practitioners about innovation research.

When did you first become interested in innovation?

When I was an undergraduate reading the work of English economist Chris Freeman, and Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter. The study of innovation has many attractions, as it involves attempting to understand how new things come into being and are then modified and changed in use. At the time when I was studying for my undergraduate degree at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada was mired in recession, and the study of innovation seemed to offer the alluring prospect of a pathway to recovery.

What happens if companies aren’t innovative?

Innovation is risky, offering the carrot of spectacular rewards or the stick of destitution. But our economic system is diverse and, in many sectors, it is possible to survive and not be very innovative, learning from the innovations of others. What is really required is the ability to learn quickly, be flexible and be willing to accept a high degree of uncertainty. Of course, these skills are hard to develop for individuals as well as organisations.

Why do we need a centre for innovation?

It is criticial that we seek to understand how ideas are translated into new products, processes and services, and how these innovations are used, adapted and changed in practice. The study of innovation provides a map for policy-makers, managers and academics to better understand how we can influence the future by proactively shaping investments and decisions about the developments and use of technology.

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