Forced to Innovate: How Does Your Innovation Process Scrub Up?

By David Calvert

As commentators discuss the innovation process and cite the most successful, and profitable, examples of innovation they may mention a disruptive technology which changed an entire market. One example we all recognise from our daily lives would be digital photography and how this completely changed the way we looked at preserving our memories.

Often though, innovation is driven by a regulatory change. For example, in the 1980s we saw the Montreal Protocol leading to a ban on the use of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) due their causing thinning of the ozone layer. This ban led to innovation as more benign chemicals were introduced. An interesting and unforeseen potential benefit has been recently claimed – the CFC ban may also have caused a pause in global warming.

Moving closer to home for product formulators, there has been a recent regulatory move in the USA which is leading to some forced innovation. At the end of last year President Obama signed  the “Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015” which will ban the manufacture of the plastics from 2017 and will be followed by further product-specific manufacturing and sales bans in the following years. The pressure on these products does not show a sign of stopping and further bans in the EU and other regions appear likely.

The microbeads in question are used in a variety of products such as cleansers, scrubs, body washes and toothpastes – so the market for sustainable alternatives is significant. Bamboo powder, rice, apricot seeds, walnut shells, powdered pecan shells are now being promoted as natural options. The fact that a large number of major companies are now committed to stop using microbeads in their products will no doubt lead to some further innovations and there is no reason to assume that these solution won’t be synthetic as well as naturally derived.

When you’re faced with an external change which forces a change, you may look for innovations from outside of your own market. The process of “Open Innovation” and engaging with partners outside your own company and industry can present some challenges, but in a recent webinar and brochure we demonstrate how to make it work and stimulate innovation. We have also published a white paper on this subject and this can be obtained by sending an e-mail to . So if you are in need of a “cleaned up innovation”, then please get in touch!

February 2016