Invention VS Innovation in Entrepreneurship

In the entrepreneurial world, people often use the terms “invention” and “innovation” interchangeably, but in reality there is a big difference between the two terms.

Understanding the difference between the two is important for entrepreneurs who are trying to create value with their business.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, renowned for its groundbreaking research, offers a simple yet powerful equation to describe innovation: 

Innovation = Invention x Commercialization


This blog post delves into the differences between Innovation and invention. Innovation is the process of commercializing an invention or idea to create value. Inventions alone do not generate economic value or social impact, but commercialization turns them into something tangible. The power of commercialization drives innovation, as seen in Apple’s success in turning inventions into groundbreaking innovations..

Invention: The Idea or Technology

An invention refers to a new idea, technology, or patent. By itself, an invention does not create value. It’s merely a concept or a prototype that has potential. 

While inventions are necessary for progress, they don’t generate economic value or social impact on their own.

Inventions are the fundamental building blocks for innovation. They represent novel ideas, technologies, or patents that have the potential to revolutionize the way we live, work, and interact with the world. 

Inventions often emerge from the scientific research, engineering breakthroughs, or the creative minds of inventors who envision solutions to challenges that have yet to be addressed.

The Potential of Inventions

While inventions do not inherently create value, they hold the potential to be transformative. 

They can lead to groundbreaking advancements in diverse fields, such as medicine, transportation, communication, and energy, ultimately improving the quality of life and shaping the future of society, however, it’s important to recognize that the potential of an invention lies dormant until it’s harnessed through the process of commercialization.

Inventors play a crucial role in the invention process, pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and understanding. They are often driven by curiosity, passion, and a desire to make a difference. 

The journey of an inventor can be a challenging and uncertain one, requiring persistence, resilience, and a willingness to take risks to achieve their ultimate goals.

Patents: Protecting Intellectual Property

Patents serve as a legal mechanism to protect the intellectual property of inventors. They grant exclusive rights to the inventor to use, manufacture, and sell their invention for a specified period, typically 20 years from the filing date. 

This protection incentivizes inventors to invest time, resources, and energy into developing new ideas and technologies, knowing that their hard work can be safeguarded from competitors.

Inventions in Context

It’s essential to view inventions within the broader context of innovation. 

An invention, as valuable and groundbreaking as it may be, requires the right conditions and environment to reach its full potential. Inventors, entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers must collaborate to create ecosystems that nurture and support the growth and development of inventions, transforming them into innovations that generate economic value and social impact.

Innovation: Turning Inventions into Value

Innovation is the process of taking an invention and commercializing it. It involves transforming a new idea or technology into something that generates value for the world, making things faster, better, or cheaper, or providing immense satisfaction to users. 

It’s the combination of invention and commercialization that makes an idea valuable.

The Power of Commercialization

Commercialization is the key ingredient that enables inventions to realize their full potential. This crucial process involves developing business models, refining products or services, identifying target markets, establishing distribution channels, and creating marketing strategies that effectively communicate the value proposition of the invention to potential customers.

Innovation often requires collaboration between various stakeholders, including inventors, entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers, and end-users. It is through this collective effort that an invention can be nurtured, developed, and ultimately brought to market to turn it into an innovative product or service. 

In many instances, a multidisciplinary approach is essential to address the diverse challenges and opportunities that arise during the innovation process.

The Importance of Adaptation for Success

The journey from invention to innovation is rarely linear or predictable. It frequently involves setbacks, pivots, and unforeseen obstacles. Innovators must be adaptable and willing to iterate on their ideas, refining and reimagining their inventions in response to market feedback, technological advancements, and evolving consumer needs. 

This iterative process is critical to the successful commercialization of an invention and the creation of lasting value.

The success of innovation can be measured in various ways, depending on the specific context and objectives. 

Some common metrics include;

  • economic value: such as increased revenue, cost savings, or job creation,
  • social impact: for example, improved quality of life, better access to resources, or reduced inequalities, and
  • environmental benefits: such as reduced carbon emissions, sustainable resource use, or decreased waste. 

Ultimately, successful innovation goes beyond merely introducing a new product or service; it involves creating lasting, positive change that improves lives and drives progress.

Cultivating a Culture of Innovation

To foster innovation, it’s essential to cultivate a culture that encourages creativity, experimentation, and risk-taking. 

This requires organizations, institutions, and even entire societies to embrace a mindset that values learning, embraces failure as an opportunity for growth, and celebrates the pursuit of new ideas and solutions. 

By fostering such an environment, the potential of inventions can be harnessed, paving the way for transformative innovations that shape a better future.

Innovation VS Invention: Turning Ideas into Impact

Transforming Raw Concepts into Marketable Products

Commercialization is the driving force that turns ideas and inventions into tangible value, fueling innovation and economic growth. The process involves taking raw concepts, refining them, and transforming them into marketable products or services that resonate with consumers and deliver significant benefits.

Apple, a prime example of a company that excels in commercialization, has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to identify promising inventions, adapt them to their vision, and create groundbreaking products that revolutionize industries.

Mastering the Art of Commercialization

There are several critical components to successful commercialization:

Product Development: Transforming an invention into a viable product or service requires research, development, and iteration. This process involves refining the initial concept, ensuring it is functional, user-friendly, and meets the needs of the target market.

Market Research: To effectively commercialize an invention, it’s essential to understand the target audience, their needs, and preferences. Market research provides valuable insights into customer behavior, allowing businesses to tailor their offerings accordingly.

Business Model Development: A well-defined business model is crucial to the commercialization process. It outlines how a company will generate revenue, manage expenses, and create value for both customers and shareholders.

Go-to-Market Strategy: A comprehensive go-to-market strategy is necessary to bring a product or service to the masses. This includes defining the target market, creating compelling marketing messages, establishing distribution channels, and developing pricing strategies.

Strategic Partnerships: Forming strategic partnerships can be crucial in the commercialization process. Collaborating with other organizations, such as suppliers, distributors, influencers, or complementary service providers, can accelerate growth and increase market reach.

The Impact of Successful Commercialization

Successful commercialization not only generates value for customers and shareholders, but it also contributes to broader economic growth and societal progress. When companies like Apple successfully commercialize inventions, they create new markets, disrupt established industries, and spur further innovation.

Moreover, the commercialization process often leads to job creation, as companies expand their operations and workforce to meet the growing demand for their innovative products and services.

To harness the power of commercialization, companies and entrepreneurs must adopt a mindset that values both invention and execution. This means not only embracing new ideas and technologies but also investing in the infrastructure, resources, and talent necessary to bring these innovations to market. 

By fostering a culture that prioritizes commercialization, organizations can position themselves for long-term success and drive meaningful change across industries and society as a whole.

The Multiplicative Nature of Innovation

The equation we mentioned above (Innovation = Invention x Commercialization) highlights the multiplicative nature of innovation. 

If either invention or commercialization is missing, the result is zero innovation. 

An invention without commercialization is just an idea with no practical application or value. Similarly, commercialization without a novel invention results in no real innovation. To achieve innovation, both components must be present and effectively combined.

The Takeaway for Entrepreneurs

As an entrepreneur, it’s crucial to understand that innovation is more than just coming up with a new idea or technology. It’s about finding ways to commercialize that invention and create value for customers, stakeholders, and society as a whole.

When starting a new venture, keep in mind that ideas are cheap, but the ability to commercialize those ideas is what sets successful entrepreneurs apart. As you develop your own innovative solutions, you need to give importance to both the invention and the commercialization aspects to ensure you create real, lasting value in the marketplace.

If you want to read more posts from our Entrepreneur Journey series check out our next guide on the Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs. Alternatively, you can go to the first post in the series titled, The Two Sides of Entrepreneurship.


I am a branding and naming consultant with 16 years of experience. I believe in building a strong brand name that identifies your visions and that of your business. A brand identity motivates you and your team to achieve success.

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