Analysis of a large number of patents reveals that not every invention is equal in its inventive value. Altshuller proposed five levels of innovation:
Level #1 are simple improvement of a technical system. They require knowledge available within an industry relevant to that system.
Level #2 inventions include the resolution of a technical contradiction. They require knowledge from different areas within an industry relevant to the system.
Level #3 is an invention containing a resolution of a physical contradiction. It requires knowledge from other industries. Levels #2 & #3 solve contradictions and therefore are innovative by definition.
Level #4 is development a new technology. It is developed by using breakthrough solutions that requires knowledge from different fields of science. This fourth level also improves upon a technical system, but without solving an existing technical problem. Instead, it improves the function by replacing the original technology with a new technology. For example a mechanical system is replaced with a chemical system to perform the function.
Level #5 involves the discovery of new phenomena. The new phenomenon is discovered that allows pushing the existing technology to a higher level. Altshuller concluded from his research that a large number of patents (77%) belong only to Levels #1 and #2. The practical utilization of TRIZ methodology can help inventors elevate their innovative solutions to Levels #3 and #4.