Interesting Case Studies

Case Studies

Some companies or technologies have been successful and some have been disasters, but there is always something to be learnt. A number of the following examples are from the Managing Innovation - Integrating Technological, Market and Organisational Change who have put together a great list of case studies:

Case Study Description
3M
ARM ARM are one the greatest UK technology success stories. The vast majority of mobile devices you own (think phone, camera etc) will be powered by a processor developed by this company from Cambridge. A good overview of them is given in this article. What I find the most interesting thing about this company is there business model. ARM do not manufacture their chips, infact they do not create anything at all apart from designs. They exist solely to create intellectual property which is then purchased or licensed by other companies who do the rest of the work. This is a model that few have replicated but due to the complexity of the processor ARM have been one of the biggest advocates of Open Innovation ever (whether they know it or not).
Ancient Greece and the Industrial Revolution The Industrial Revolution at the end of the 18th century was built around a single technology, the steam engine. You may be surprised to learn that in fact the steam engine was invented in the 1st Century by Hero of Ancient Greece. Known as the Aeolipile this is a prime example of how new technical products do not always require new technology. We are obsessed we creating things from scratch, sometime it is worth looking back. This is discussed further in the Technology Transfer section of this wiki.
Concorde Concorde was an aircraft well ahead of its time. Even now after 40 years since its creation it is still the fastest ever passenger jet and admired across the world for being a landmark of innovation and design. This page tells the Concorde story and looks at the features of the project which can be classed as successes and failures. It also looks at some of the overlooked secrets behind the success of the project and how Concorde has contributed to the advancement of future technologies.
Cornish engine This open source hardware thing is a new idea isn't it? Well actually it isn't. The Cornish engine was invented in the early 1800's and was used for pumping water and revolutionised mining by increasing the speed in which water could be removed. The technology was essentially an open source project with companies encouraged to a core design but importantly for no fee.
Ford Ford Motor Company did not invent the car but were the first to produce a car that was affordable.
Lego
Open Innovation in the Eighteenth Century - The Longitude Problem The Longitude problem is one of the first examples of a competition based approach to Open Innovation. The UK government put up a prize fund worth millions in todays money for anyone who could create a technology that could accurately calculate the longitude of a ship when it was at sea.
PARC This case study is often quoted in the innovation literature as it describes how an incumbent technology can innovate quickly in response to threats from new technology. When steam powered boats started to hit the water most people said that the simple sailing ships days were numbered. In fact the industry innovated faster than it ever had before producing sail and ship technology which increased speed, reliability and drove down the cost such that sailing ships shared the water with steam ships for much longer than anyone would have thought.
Pilkington Glass Until the 19th century large flat glass panels were an expensive luxury most could not afford. The manufacturing process was labor intensive and required multiple grinding and polishing stages. Pilkington revolutionised the industry after developing the Float Glass technique. This essenitially used a conveyor of water with molten glass poured on. The glass would set on the surface of the water flat and smooth. This is a great example how the simple application of a physical phenomena can revolutionise an entire industry.
Tesco - Fresh and Easy
The Baghdad Battery New product does not always require a new technology. The Baghdad Battery is a prime example of this. Ancient artefacts have been discovered dating well before 0AD which appear to have the ability to act as batteries.
The Bessemer Process The Bessemer process was the first industrial scale process for creating steel from pig iron (an intermediary stage in process raw iron ore). The technology revolutionised steel production but from a technical commercialisation point of view, that was not the interesting bit. The process was not invented by the man who commercialised it, but was a process used for hundreds of years but not at this scale. The story behind the patents is the real story worth reading.
The sailing ship effect This case study is often quoted in the innovation literature as it describes how an incumbent technology can innovate quickly in response to threats from new technology. When steam powered boats started to hit the water most people said that the simple sailing ships days were numbered. In fact the industry innovated faster than it ever had before producing sail and ship technology which increased speed, reliability and drove down the cost such that sailing ships shared the water with steam ships for much longer than anyone would have thought.
Zara