The Definition of Innovative Technology

Updated April 17, 2017

Inventions are new products or methods created from original ideas, while innovations are new versions of something that offer an expanded use. Three types of innovative technology take existing technological knowledge to a new level.


Incrementally innovative technology is a small but valued improvement in a product or method. The latest version of a word processing program that allows the user to create new types of documents with more efficient tools is an example of incrementally innovative technology.


Semi-radical innovative technology relies on existing technological knowledge, but uses that knowledge in a way that differs significantly with the past. Cell phones were once mobile telephones, but today they are personal communication networks with built-in work desks and entertainment systems. Today's cell phones represent semi-radical innovative technology that has changed the way people understand and use cell phones.


Radically innovative technology, or disruptive technology, involves a break from the past and new and often more accessible products or methods. It is disruptive because it pushes aside existing businesses and their supply chains. Common examples of radically innovative technology are digital photography, which has minimised traditional cameras and film, and e-readers which could make print media irrelevant.

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About the Author

Laura Scott has been reporting for Gatehouse Media New England, Essex County Newspapers and other regional publishers since 1997. She won several New England Press Association awards for her coverage of the fishing industry and coastal communities. Scott is a graduate of Vassar College and has a master's degree in American studies from Boston College. She also attended art school in Italy.