The innovations stages

Innovation for healthcare technology is often seen as a journey embracing a series of stages – invention, evaluation, adoption and diffusion.

In practice these stages are neither discrete nor linear. There is overlap between them and for many innovations the journey from initial concept to diffusion may not take the form of a neat linear pathway.

Use the tool to identify where your innovation sits in relation to what are called ‘technology readiness levels’ (TRLs), a systematic way of identifying the maturity of a particular technology. There are various TRL models, but broadly they divide innovations into the categories outlined below. For simplicity we have grouped TRLs into slightly broader stages: basic technology research, feasibility and development, demonstration, adoption and spread. The TRLs and their descriptions in our tool draw on John Mankins (1995) Technology Readiness Levels. A White Paper. Office of Space Access and Technology, NASA.

Preliminary research
Stage 0

Preliminary research

At this stage you are investgating the opportunity for your idea – researching the need for it, the potential demand and market. Typical questions you should be asking are:

  • 1How ‘new’ is my potential product?
  • 2Can I identify its potential advantages?
  • 3Will it create an entirely new market?
  • 4Is it a development of an existing product, providing better performance or value and replacing what is currently available?
  • 5Is it a cost reducing innovation – a new product providing similar performance but at a lower cost? Is it something that will reposition an existing product to target a new market or market segment?
More information about this stage
BASIC TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH
Stage 1

Basic technology research

  • 1 Basic principles observed and reported. The lowest level of technology maturity. Scientific research begins to be translated into applied research and development.
  • 2 The technology concept and/or application is formulated. Practical applications can be identified.
  • 3 Analytical and experimental proof-of-concept validation of the applications/concepts formulated earlier. Active R&D is initiated, including analytical studies to set the technology into an appropriate context and laboratory-based studies to physically validate that the analytical predictions are correct.
More information about this stage
Feasibility & development
Stage 2

Feasibility & development

  • 1 Component validation in laboratory environment. Basic technological elements integrated to establish that they work together to achieve a suitable level of performance, consistent with the concept formulated earlier and the requirements of potential system applications.
  • 2 Component validation in relevant environment. The fidelity of the component(s) being tested has to increase significantly. Basic technological elements must be integrated with reasonably realistic supporting elements so that the overall application can be tested in a simulated or partly realistic environment.
More information about this stage
Demonstration
Stage 3

Demonstration

  • 1Demonstration of a prototype or model of the innovation's system/subsystem in a relevant environment. The demonstration might represent an actual system application, or it might be similar to the planned application, but using the same technologies. 
  • 2 A higher level of maturity. This stage is both to give management or funders confidence as well as meeting continuing R&D requirements. The demonstration must be of a prototype of that application. This stage is especially important where the technology is relatively high risk.
More information about this stage
Testing & Launch
Stage 4

Testing & Launch

  • 1 The innovation is completed and ‘flight qualified’ through test and demonstration. In most cases, this is the end of true system development for most technology elements.
  • 2The innovation is ‘flight proven’ through successful trials. This represents the end of ‘bug fixing’ aspects of system development’.
More information about this stage
Adoption & Spread
Stage 5

Adoption & Spread

For some innovations this will be the hardest stage. Proving an innovation works in a trial is one thing, persuading users to adopt it is another. This requires the right kind of evidence for the benefits of the innovation and persistence in getting it taken up. Our tool provides advice on this. 

More information about this stage
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