i²c Networking Friday 2019

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Business models at the limit of the technically feasible – The role of the university in assessing economical and societal risks of innovation

 

New business models often aim at cost reduction or new services enabled by the use of existing technologies. In addition, there are start-ups founded on newly developed technical innovations. Such innovations are suitable for realizing a sustainable advantage over competitors, which promises high returns. However, they present potential investors with significant challenges. While the assessment of the market potential of an innovation can be supported by well-known approaches of market research, the assessment of the technical feasibility is much more difficult. This applies in particular to innovations that are presented as a result of new scientific findings. The assessment of new scientific knowledge is done usually in an anonymized peer review process. Company founders who rely on science-based innovation may have reasons not to promote their ideas through scientific publications in detail. In these cases, the question arises as to how a trustworthy assessment of innovations can be made. A series of spectacular misjudgments, most recently the case of the initially very successful start-up of the American founder Elizabeth Holmes, shows that this is not a marginal problem. Insufficient appraisals of innovative products not only lead to a misallocation of investment funds, they are also likely to damage the confidence in start ups in general. Ultimately, innovations that are substantiated by not yet sufficiently confirmed results of scientific research can only be assessed by appropriately qualified scientists.

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