Has the word "innovation" lost its meaning?

‘Innovation’ is more than a buzzword. It’s about invention, advancement, and efficiency.

Innovation. It's one of the most ubiquitous terms in business. Every company is “innovating" or has an “innovative product." In recent years, it seems 'innovation' has become a victim of semantic saturation, when repetition causes a word to temporarily lose meaning for the listener, and to become an empty sound.

Be that as it may, just because the word is overused, doesn't mean that the need to innovate is any less important.

Innovation is about invention. It's the internal combustion engine. It's penicillin and semiconductor electronics and refrigeration and paper.

Innovation is also advancement. It's the printing press and the spread of literacy. It's the Internet and the rapid proliferation of communication and data.

Innovation also brings efficiency—faster and smarter ways of doing things. It's the wheel and the steam engine and nuclear fission.

Ideally, it's about improving the world, the way we live. It's about solving problems and breaking through challenges and barriers.

And perhaps that's the better word: “breakthrough." There's an aspirational element to it, a call to arms.

“Breakthrough" is also the theme for this, the first issue of BASF's Performance Materials digital magazine.

This month, we look at nanoelectronics and how breakthroughs in that field are changing everything from the socks we wear while jogging, to diagnostic testing in the medical industry.

We also look at how manufacturers of refrigeration products are balancing increased regulations with the overwhelming need to increase the cold chain in developing countries, to bring fresh food and vaccines to people who need them most.

Speaking of regulations, the construction industry is in the process of building net-zero-ready homes. The problem? Selling these homes to consumers. How do builders explain net-zero-ready homes, the higher price point, and the benefits? Sam Rashkin, Chief Architect, U.S. Department of Energy's Building Technologies, has some ideas.

The transportation sector has been rapidly rolling out innovation after innovation over the last several years. “The automotive industry is at a tipping point—consumer preferences, fuel economy regulations and innovative technologies are all inspiring a new vehicle landscape," said Brian Shaner, market segment manager for BASF. There's a lot happening in the industry, in every mode of transportation. From automated vehicles to lighter material to better durability and comfort, it's an exciting time for the industry.

That's another aspect of innovation—it's exciting. Inspiring. And if there's anything we hope you take away from this month's stories, it's a little inspiration.

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