“Expensive Flops“: Only every second new industrial product becomes a success. Study shows ways to higher productivity

It is widely said new innovative products guarantee corporate success. Their development frequently exceeds costs of several millions of euros – risky investments with a chance of success below 50%. Whoever designs products that do not deal with the customers’ needs or accepts the unnecessary duplication of efforts “wastes” scarce resources: time, money, and the “patience” of professional and managerial staff. Researchers at the IAI Bochum analysed the question of how scarce resources can be used efficiently in an empirical study (

The survey of more than 370 technology companies identifies the need for change at multiple levels: a) only every second new product in the industrial sector is successful. “Top companies” and “runner-ups” reach a success rate of 64% and 40%, respectively. The problems of these “expensive flops” are often to be found in a wrong customer focus. b) One can find a high level of “non-value adding activities” at the operational level of numerous companies: if too many working hours are consumed by administration and documentation, one lacks energy for the core tasks. The major drivers of productivity problems are waiting times and no clearly communicated limits between different departments. c) Problems at the operational level frequently lead to a lack of time to develop ideas for new fields of application and markets in the future. d) It is people who innovate. The assertion that the task of innovating can stress human beings until vital exhaustion is supported by the study: 77% of all companies consider “overloaded key people” a bottleneck factor. Therefore, employee-oriented measures are necessary for productivity in research and development.

The need for change is more than apparent – yet, one is often lost to find a starting point in order to use scarce resources more efficiently. The Bochum-based innovation researchers have developed a modular concept, which is available for companies upon request. A brief selection of starting points: a) One should initiate a continuous improvement process at the operational level, which integrates employees and enables them to learn systematically from both “flops” and success stories. b) In contrast to common practices, one should not only aim at increasing efficiency. The scientific heads of the study, Professor Kriegesmann and Professor Kerka, are warning of a one-sided orientation towards short-term goals: “Otherwise, there is the danger of doing the wrong thing in a highly efficient way and missing key fields for the future!c) The commitment to “adding value without waste”, however, is nothing to be fully delegated to skilled workers and professionals. The Bochum-based innovation researchers emphasise the necessity of actions coming from the executive in order to inspire and motivate their staff for “More Productivity!”

(*) The study „R&D Management: Making More Of Scarce Innovation Resources“ (ISBN 978-3-928854-39-9) can be purchased at the IAI Bochum for € 39.

Contact: Institute for Applied Innovation Research (IAI) e.V. at Ruhr-University Bochum, Buscheyplatz 13, D-44801 Bochum – Tel: +49 (0)234 / 97117-0, and

How to Work Productively in R&D: Strengthening Resources, Avoiding Waste – ReFo Transfer Event on 4 July 2017

Within the framework of ReFo – Resource Efficiency in Industrial Research and Development, the IAI Bochum analyses in cooperation with Kliniken Essen-Mitte and phenox GmbH the possibilities of improving work processes in innovation-oriented fields.

In einer Transferveranstaltung am 4. Juli 2017 werden interessierten Praktikern zentrale Ergebnisse des Projekts präsentiert. WEITER

New article: "Ressourcenschonendes Arbeiten in der industriellen Forschung und Entwicklung" (in English: “Resource-saving way of operating in industrial research and development”)

The key notion of “lean innovation” implies efficiency and the avoidance of waste in innovation processes at the same time. Design dilemmas and possible solutions on the way to this essential goal are discussed in the article with the help of results from the research projects KreaRe and ReFo.

The article was published in the February 2015 edition of the journal “praeview”: Bernd Kriegesmann, Thomas Kley, Alexander Knickmeier, Birgit Ottensmeier, Nils Altner, Holger Pracht (2015): Ressourcenschonendes Arbeiten in der industriellen Forschung und Entwicklung, in: praeview – Zeitschrift für innovative Arbeitsgestaltung und Prävention, 2, pp. 14-15.

The article can be downloaded here.

"Ressourcenschonendes Arbeiten in der industriellen Forschung und Entwicklung" – ReFo at the BMBF conference “Working in the digital world”

ReFo will be represented at the BMBF conference “Working in the digital world”. In cooperation with the focus group 7 “competence development as driver of innovation”, we will present the research project.

The poster used during the presentation is available under the following link. Birgit Ottensmeier, Thomas Kley and Alexander Knickmeier will be on-site from 27 to 29 May 2015.

The IAI, Kliniken Essen-Mitte, and phenox GmbH to start the research project “Ressourcenschonenden Arbeiten in der industriellen Forschung und Entwicklung“ (ReFo)

The availability of qualified workers and executives is a crucial requirement in order to secure and enhance Germany as a location for innovation. Their competence is, so to speak, the basis for innovations of products, services and processes. In the wake of the demographic change, the industrial research and development sector has been experiencing sharp staff shortages. Meanwhile, the pressure is on for employees in this sector and does not cease to increase. Thus, one will have to put emphasis on the elaboration of possible solutions, tackling the question of how to organise the dwindling and ageing human resources in the innovation process in the most efficient way possible. In this way, the avoidance of waste and physically demanding activities in research and development that do not contribute to the general innovation capacity becomes the lever of innovation promotion in the demographic change. However, it has still not been fully clarified how employees in research and development can be enabled to take advantage of this potential. Against this background, the joint research project “ReFo” aims at:

    • clarifying the application-oriented connections between resource-saving work in the industrial research and development and thereby making contributions to the closing of knowledge gaps in this field;

    • designing a transferrable concept of competence management in close collaboration with the corporate practice in order to find out how (ageing) employees can be enabled to make use of their potential autonomously;
    • understanding at the same time scientific implications in terms of resource-saving working for the innovation research and developing new approaches and points of view.

    iAi Bochum Institute for Applied Innovation Research e.V. · Chairman Prof. Dr. Bernd Kriegesmann
    Buscheyplatz 13 · D-44801 Bochum · Tel +49 (0)234 97117-0 · Phone +49 (0)234 97117-20 · Email

    Scientific Institution of
    Ruhr-Universität Bochum

    Ruhr Universität Bochum