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Long Waves: The History of Innovation Cycles

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  • Long Waves: The History of Innovation Cycles

    Long Waves: How Innovation Cycles Influence Growth


    Creative destruction plays a key role in entrepreneurship and economic development.

    Coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1942, the theory of “creative destruction” suggests that business cycles operate under long waves of innovation. Specifically, as markets are disrupted, key clusters of industries have outsized effects on the economy.

    Take the railway industry, for example. At the turn of the 19th century, railways completely reshaped urban demographics and trade. Similarly, the internet disrupted entire industries—from media to retail.

    The above infographic shows how innovation cycles have impacted economies since 1785, and what’s next for the future.

    Innovation Cycles: The Six Waves


    From the first wave of textiles and water power in the industrial revolution, to the internet in the 1990s, here are the six waves of innovation and their key breakthroughs.
    Water Power
    Textiles
    Iron
    Steam
    Rail
    Steel
    Electricity
    Chemicals
    Internal-Combustion Engine
    Petrochemicals
    Electronics
    Aviation
    Digital Network
    Software
    New Media
    Digitization (AI, IoT, AV,
    Robots & Drones)
    Clean Tech
    60 years 55 years 50 years 40 years 30 years 25 years

    Source: Edelsen Institute, Detlef Reis

    During the first wave of the Industrial Revolution, water power was instrumental in manufacturing paper, textiles, and iron goods. Unlike the mills of the past, full-sized dams fed turbines through complex belt systems. Advances in textiles brought the first factory, and cities expanded around them.

    With the second wave, between about 1845 and 1900, came significant rail, steam, and steel advancements. The rail industry alone affected countless industries, from iron and oil to steel and copper. In turn, great railway monopolies were formed.

    The emergence of electricity powering light and telephone communication through the third wave dominated the first half of the 1900s. Henry Ford introduced the Model T, and the assembly line transformed the auto industry. Automobiles became closely linked with the expansion of the American metropolis. Later, in the fourth wave, aviation revolutionized travel.

    After the internet emerged by the early 1990s, barriers to information were upended. New media changed political discourse, news cycles, and communication in the fifth wave. The internet ushered in a new frontier of globalization, a borderless landscape of digital information flows.

    Read More: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/the...zj8OLHZvRqLwDA
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