Paving the way for innovation

Long considered a foe of innovation, standardization is at the very heart of the process

Credited with increasing our quality of life and boosting economies and employee productivity, “innovation” is one term that is ubiquitous in today’s media landscape.

International Standards provide a foundation for technological innovation

But what is innovation?

All too often we tend to think of it as a light-bulb moment that dramatically changes the way we do things. But Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb was not so much the result of a “eureka moment” as a culmination of five decades of inventions, testing and failures by his predecessors and contemporaries. These, combined with his new approach to creating a product that was safe and economical, and supported by the first commercial power station built by Edison himself a few years later, led to the light bulb’s widespread adoption and success.

Innovation is built on trial and error, great ideas that never saw the light of day and others that did and failed and yes, standardization! For an innovative technology to make its mark on the world, consumers need to know that it works and is safe and it has to be able to be deployed worldwide. Manufacturers of appliances and consumer electronics as commonplace as the microwave and mobile phone rely on International Standards to ensure the safety and compatibility of their products. Another crucial aspect nowadays of course is the security not only of the technology but also of the data it makes use of. In this area too, International Standards are facilitating the process, by providing a reliable framework for cyber security.

Any current innovation also relies on all those, big and small, that have come before it. In this issue we take a look at the formidable women innovators whose ground-breaking work in fields as diverse as computer programming and solar energy led the way for many of the technologies and consumer goods we take for granted today. With women still gravely underrepresented in STEM fields, the IEC is committed to reaching out to its members to raise the importance of their participation in its technical committees and programmes. 

New ideas also have an uncanny way of being developed for application in one field, only to find their way into others. Drones and other unmanned powered vehicles are examples of technologies which were designed originally for military use and are now being deployed in many different areas, including environmental conservation and clean-up.

As companies and governments worldwide continue to pursue and encourage technological innovation, International Standards provide the necessary foundations to help it succeed and flourish.