Making a theoretical new model is certainly called innovation and definitely counted towards research. However, applying an old model to a completely new data set can also be called research and innovation. By all means, you shouldn’t feel shame of it.
“There are two kinds of gifts. First, there is the innate gift of a given skill. This is a minor gift. If you have this gift, a skill such as doing math or playing the piano comes naturally to you. There are millions of people with minor gifts of all kinds who never do anything great with their gifted skills, because they lack the major gift.
The major gift is the love of the work. This might seem backward. How can love of using a skill be more important than the skill itself? It is for this simple reason: if you have a major gift, you will do things with the skills you have. And keep doing them. And your love of the work will shine through. And through practice, your skills will grow and become more powerful, until your skills are as great or greater than someone who only has the minor gift.
There is only one way to find out if you have the major gift. Start down the path, and see if it makes your heart sing.” — From “The Art of Game Design”[Schell ’08]