“The best way to have a good idea is to have lot of ideas” – Dr. Linus Pauling
“To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.”- Albert Einstein
For any business to prosper and grow keeping up with the competition as well as getting ahead of them is very crucial. Getting ahead can be achieved by the means of innovation which is joined to research and development (R&D). Innovation in terms of business can be defined as the process of creating and delivering new value to the customer in the market. Innovation in business can also be driven by the extent of innovation of different companies in the industry (among its competitors). Being the first to market with a new product can prove to be a significant advantage in terms of building a customer base. It is difficult to compete if the products are seen as out-dated. However, when investing in innovation we need to keep in mind that many businesses survive by copying and adapting the innovations of others and benefit from others hard work.
The business would stand out with innovative products and ideas for marketing if competing on price becomes difficult. For any industry innovation is essential, as it is one of the key ways to differentiate a product from its competition.
From a different perspective, we can say that innovation is important for the advancement of society as well. New and innovative products, concepts, services can increase the standard of living and provide people with opportunities to improve their lives. Innovations in the areas of medicine and technology have significantly improved the standard of living around the world. Innovation has also lead to significant improvements in the way businesses operate and has closed the gaps between different markets. Research seeks to make basic discoveries and uncover new principles or facts so far unknown or unrecognized.
Innovation as a versatile tool
Earlier innovation was considered a closed concept wherein all the steps right from conceptualization to launch of a product or technology were carried out within the organization itself (internally). This approach of innovation has its own drawbacks. Employing closed approach of research and innovation may lead to development of products that are not in line with the consumer demands and expectations.
The industry today is moving from closed to open approach wherein external inputs are taken into consideration along with internal inputs and processes. Open innovation is leading to unprecedented inflows and outflows of information between research institutions and industry around the world. The two-way flow of information is very powerful. The scientists, researchers, healthcare professionals etc. get an in-depth view of the market
There are two ways by which companies can come up with innovative products in the nutraceuticals segment.
In the first approach we deal with the existing (previously known) raw materials or take a new raw material and conduct research and development on it and then develop a new product.
In the second approach, first market analysis is done and consumer feedback is taken in order to understand consumer needs and requirements. Then after assessing the consumer needs, on the existing or novel raw materials the research and development is carried out and then new product is developed. With this approach we can have products that address the unmet needs of the consumers and the companies get to enter niche segments or areas of nutraceuticals.
Innovations in technology
The innovations in dosage and delivery formats of nutraceuticals gives rise to newer and higher expectations from consumers, at the same time the acceptance of older/conventional formats such as Dietary supplements becomes milder. Another fact is that these newer formats fit/blend readily into consumer’s lifestyle. Alongside these, with the advances in science and technology there has been an increase in new technologies that either aid or disrupt the product innovations.
One such innovation is the gene testing or gene mapping technique. A branch of nutritional genomics viz. Nutrigenomics is the study of the effects of foods and food constituents on gene expression. It promotes an increased understanding of how nutrition influences the metabolic pathways and homeostatic control, how this regulation is disturbed in the early phases of diet-related disease, and the extent to which individual sensitizing genotypes contribute to such diseases. Scientific advances have enabled the application of nutrigenomics in the field of anti-ageing and customize nutritional solutions in the form of supplements to meet the optimal nutrition required by the body to prevent ageing of cells by the formation of excess free radicals.
This gene mapping technique could be the basis of personalized nutrition for an individual. A lot of research is being carried out to understand and further validate the use and application of this technique in day-to-day life.
The area of gene therapy has also been explored for curing or managing disease/disorder. E.g. A recent success, announced in Lancet, which was of an experimental treatment for choroidermia, a type of blindness. This is caused by mutation of the gene for a protein called REP1. Without REP1, the eye’s light receptors degenerate. Robert MacLaren of Oxford University used a virus to deliver working versions of REP1 gene to the most light-sensitive part of the retina. Five of the six participants in the trial duly experienced an improvement in their sensitivity to light. Two were so improved that they could read more letters than previously on a standard eye chart.
Role of regulations and policies
Currently in India the regulations are still getting formalized thus, it is important that the regulatory authorities take into consideration the importance of research and development in nutraceuticals. With changing disease pattern and increase in the incidences of lifestyle diseases, it is required to have new innovative products that would address these rising issues. Therefore, the regulatory support for research and development and innovation will be a huge help to the industry and mostly to the consumer. Also, policies can be formulated with help of government to encourage more and more investment for the industry and companies (national & international) in the innovation and R&D.
With changing dietary habits and increasing lifestyle diseases, it is important to synergize technology and innovations to deliver nutrition to consumers and help them remain healthy. Industry is also becoming aware that future profit depends to a large extent on today’s research. Without innovation any business would face the issue of stagnation thus to ensure growth and for betterment of the consumers it is essential that more and more importance be given on research and development and innovation.
Dr. R.B. Smarta, march 2014 issue, Learning to Spin, Nuffoods Spectrum
Dilip Ghosh, Shantanu Das, Debasis Bagchi, R.B. Smarta, Innovation in Healthy and Functional Foods, CRC Press