Innovation has been a buzzword since at least the early 1990s. A Wall Street Journal article published earlier this year bemoaned the more recent overuse of the word, citing its appearance in product descriptions by soup makers, bubble-wrap manufacturers, and dried cranberry producers among more than 33,000 companies whose 2011 quarterly and annual reports featured the word. Such ubiquitous usage may be diluting the very meaning of innovation. But as the global economy searches for ways out of its current morass, the word is again fresh on many lips—innovation economy, innovation strategies, innovation officers, and the foreboding-sounding innovation gap.
With The Scientist’s fifth installment of our annual Top 10 Innovations competition we refocus on the core meaning of “innovation”—to whit: a new idea, method, or device, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. And this year’s crop of winning products speaks directly to this simple definition.
From a 3-D system for culturing cells and tissues and a synthetic gene service to a laboratory organization Web and iPad app (one that is coincidentally featured in this month’s Careers article “Lab 2.0” on page 67) and products that showcase the latest in rapid, cheap genome sequencing, this year’s winners exemplify true innovation. And to celebrate that spirit of inventive creativity, in which researchers and product developers push the technological envelope in order to propel science and our exploration of life, we present The Scientist’s Top 10 Innovations of 2012.
Via Olive Ventures