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Retro-innovations as an important element of the current innovation policy

The idea of retro-innovations does not present completely new concept, it just mentions well-established and running system. Retro-innovations represent business opportunities for the sustainable use of resources that through innovations create conditions for sustainable growth of the competitiveness of enterprises and the whole regions. They represent adequately adjusted innovation activities, based on the principles that only through durable and sustainable growth of competitiveness it is possible to ensure the convergence of individual regions within the European Union.

Written by Erica Loučanová

Reviewed by David Walburn


The concept

How to implement it?

Step in the RIS process

What can be expected?

A quote


Expert's comments


The concept

Generally retro-innovations are definied as a well-established system updated to the new conditions. They focus on finding inventions when using the original resources so they create innovations with character of the:

  • Modern retro style – especially used in fashion (return to the old dressing style innovated in materials, cutting, etc.), furniture and living (rustic furniture made by new technologies and materials), but also computing (it is used in continuous innovations of any programmes, their up-grading or up-dating when the retro-programme is innovated by new elements,) retro-cars and others.
  • New collections designed for retro-customers, such as. Original Adidas, Puma Classic [1] and similar ones, or
  • Skeuomorph representing representing intentional use of old and well-known elements for the new products [2].

It follows that the retro-innovations reflect the customer experience, which need not always represent something old, but they rather represent new products while keeping the old elements that customers know. We divide them into three basic categories, namely innovations:

  • Authentically imitating the product from the past,
  • Using the nostalgic format to meet new needs,
  • Using new look or new technologies to meet the old needs [3].


How to implement it?

To map and identify retro-innovations for sustainable use of resources in the region, including the growing importance of socio-economic approach.

Then to realize these innovations with the targeted support policy of the regions implementing the strategy of sustainable development (figure 1).


Figure 1 The continuous innovation strategy of retro-innovations

Desk research should focus on identifying key companies, knowledge institutions and other stakeholders of the region, which can be connected to an open system of innovation for the products re-innovations.

Analysis must be implemented continuously, resulting in a reconciliation of global trends with innovation policy of the region, in innovation supporting through specialized diversification processes from invention to its launching on the market in open innovation system. Continuous innovation process of products with retro-innovations provides increased performance in sustainable use of resources of the region, known business environment, reducing financial intensity of innovation process and so on. Retro-innovation support ensures competitiveness based on high-quality and continuous improvement of the products.


Step in the RIS process

Step 5 - Definition of coherent policy mix, roadmaps and action plan


What can be expected?

  •  Identification of entrepreneurs with continuous innovation strategy of retro-innovations for effective resource using (regional, financial or others).
  • Regional intelligent specialization for original products innovation within the system of open innovations, involving key companies, knowledge institutions and other interested stakeholders of the region in the innovation process.
  • Increasing focus on the customer involvement in the innovation process of retro-innovating based on his experience within the system of open innovation.
  • The products recovery with the dogmastic development of the life cycle.
  • Creation of new innovation opportunities.
  • Implementation of policies that support sustainable development and competitiveness for the region's growth.


A quote

"We should not waste funds and resources to research things that may have been discovered, but we should find inventions in verified innovations from the past and we should innovate them for the present."




Mrs. Erika Loučanová

Erika Loučanová works at the Technical University in Zvolen. In pedagogical practice and research activities she deals with the issue of innovation management, innovation analyses, and interactions among subjects creating confidence in personal connections in innovation networks and clusters operating on the social capital and the principles of sustainable business.

She is an author and co-author of various publications in the field of innovations, competitiveness and cluster policy. She cooperated on the Regional Innovation Strategy of the Banská Bystrica Region (BaByRIS), its pilot cluster projects and other projects in cooperation.



Expert's comments

This paper introduces an interesting niche perspective to the discussion of public policy on innovation. Not all innovation needs to be about high tech to contribute to economic growth, and much innovation can be achieved from drawing on existing technologies, or re-visiting former ways of doing things.

It might be useful here to reference the paper “Creativity to stimulate innovation in traditional industries” about an approach to innovation in the Basque region of Spain, and the commentary, which also discusses the importance of basing innovation programmes on existing products and businesses.


Mr David Walburn


After a career in business David Walburn joined Greater London Enterprise in 1986 where he was responsible for venture capital and other small business support, before becoming Chief Executive of the organisation. He was the Chair of the London Business Angels Network and played a key role in the setting up of the European Business Angels Network. He has worked with the UK government and the European Commission on developing public policy initiatives to improve the financing of small and medium-sized enterprises. He was the Chair of Capital Enterprise, the umbrella body for organisations supporting micro business development in London, until 2012.

For the last ten years he has been a Visiting Professor at London South Bank University where he headed the Local Economy Policy Unit and was the managing editor of the journal Local Economy.

He has served as President of EURADA, and been a member of a number of advisory bodies of the European Commission.  He has been an active member of the International Economic Development Council in Washington DC and has a wide range of international contacts with economic development organisations.

He continues to write and lecture on small business finance and regional economic development.


[1] FREI B. 2008. Why retro innovation is the most lucrative kind
[on-line]. VB/News, 2008. [cit. 15.09.2013]. Dostupné na internete: http://venturebeat.com/2008/04/21/why-retro-innovation-is-the-most-lucrative-kind/

[2] Skeuomorph, 2014. [on-line]. Wikipedia, 2014. [cit. 5.09.2014]. Dostupné na internete:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skeuomorph

[3] LEBERECH, T. 2013. Back To The Future: Why Retro-Innovation Is The Next Big Thing. 2013. [on-line]. FastCompany, 2013 [cit. 15.09.2013].  Dostupné na internete: http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672508/back-to-the-future-why-retro-innovation-is-the-next-big-thing