Difference between Invention and Innovation

By: | Updated: Dec-18, 2017
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Have you ever used the terms “invention” and “innovation” interchangeably? These words have several differences in meaning (as well as spelling), so they shouldn’t be used interchangeably. Therefore, provided that both innovation and an invention can enrich our lives and bring us something new, let’s see what sets them apart.

Summary Table

Invention Innovation
Creating something completely new Improving something that already exists
Requires technical skills to bring the idea to life Requires technical as well as marketing skills
Is born from an idea the inventor gets Is born from the constant need to make things better and to gain a market advantage
R&D departments are in charge of coming up with inventions Anyone in the company can pitch in, but it is usually technicians and designers who constantly improve the product


incandescent light bulbs
Edison’s invention: incandescent light bulbs

An invention means the creation of something for the very first time. It is based on a novel idea and it can only come to life with the help of specific skills from the inventor. It usually refers to a single product or process.Within companies, the Research and Development Department is in charge with coming up with inventions and ground-breaking ideas.

smart light bulbs
An example of innovation in lightbulb design: smart light bulbs that save energy and come with a life expectancy of 23 years

Innovation means a notable improvement brought to an existing product or process. It builds on an already existing idea and makes it better, more efficient, and/or more marketable. Apart from the technical skills required to make it work, a set of marketing and strategy skills are also necessary to position the innovation in the mind of the consumer.

There is no one specific department in charge of innovation and everyone in the company can contribute to perfecting a product or a process. However, the technicians and designers working in big companies are constantly tasked with coming up with innovative solutions that would help the company gain a competitive advantage. Also, innovations may be a requirement of the marketing department, either to meet a demand from the clients or to create a competitive advantage. Therefore, innovation can consist of one small addition to the original model, or it can consist of a series of changes.

Invention vs Innovation

So what is the difference between invention and innovation?

Invention consists of creating something completely new, whereas innovation consists of improving something that already exists. Therefore, while the inventor needs a set of technical skills to bring his invention to life and present it to the world, innovation needs to be managed by technicians and marketing people as well.

While an invention is born from an idea that comes to an inventor, innovations may be product requirements that correspond to marketing reviews of consumer experiences. In a way, there is a fine line between really having an innovative product and considering common updates to be innovation.

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