Rights: © Copyright 2013. University of Waikato. All rights reserved. Published 24 May 2013 Download

While innovation draws on diverse skills and thinking styles, in-depth knowledge in relevant domains is also critical. Alistair Mowat of ZESPRI and Dr Martin Markotsis of Scion highlight some of the areas of indepth knowledge that were important in the development of the new compostable biospife.

Jargon alert

Domain knowledge: The sum of what has been perceived, discovered or learned in a particular field of study or endeavour.

Life cycle assessment: A process of assessing and quantifying all the environmental impacts of a product throughout all stages of its life cycle, including sourcing and processing the raw material, manufacture, transportation to markets, use, maintenance and disposal or recycling.


Alistair Mowat

It’s not just your thinking whether you can bring together diverse ideas or whether you can really focus. That’s an important element of the innovation process, but the other set of skills that you need is to bring together domain knowledge. So you need to have an intimate knowledge in a particular area relevant to where you’re going to put that innovation effort into.

In the case of the biospife, we have people that have very detailed domain knowledge in biomaterials. They’ve trained at university, they’ve published in the area, they’re recognised as leaders, they bring together that detailed knowledge. In my own case, I have a strong detailed domain knowledge in horticultural products and food properties and quality attributes of the materials that make up those products. We have other people bringing in knowledge about life cycle assessment, so very detailed mathematics and modelling. We have people with strong knowledge in marketing, understanding consumers, understanding how to design experiments and surveys to understand what consumers want. So if you couple the thinking styles with that domain knowledge, those are crucial elements for any innovation initiative.

Dr Martin Markotsis

Innovation I don’t see as just a science thing, but in science, having a background knowledge of your material or background knowledge of your processes is quite helpful because that helps you go back onto your memory and go, OK, if I was processing a slightly different material, I’d adjust it this way. Is this the same? Is it different?

Dr Martin Markotsis, SCION
Alistair Mowat, ZESPRI
Plant & Food Research Ltd