Collaborative Innovation, where’s the supporting data

As mentioned in my previous post about the social impact assessment of social innovation, I carried out some ‘collaborative’ research for NESTA Connect last year. What surprised me was that our initial thin-slice scoping work showed that the area of collaborative innovation is somewhat underdeveloped and scattered, lacking consensus on “proven” strategies, enablers/barriers, management implications, and most importantly empirical frameworks for the assessment of collaborative innovation effect. So I put this to a couple of eminent academics and their responses seemed to confirm our initial findings:

“I just can confirm that all research w/r to analyzing the impact of Open Innovation (OI) methods on companies is very much demanded. There is, however, not a single construct to measure what OI is. To develop this thus would be the first task. Also, I doubt that many companies are already having a “practice” of OI, most are just piloting with some methods. Hence it will be difficult to conduct really an empirical study (if you not do it as previous researchers just claiming traditional R&D networks as “open innovation”).”
Professor Frank Piller RWTH Aachen University/MIT

“I think you are right to say that there is a lack of good data on collaborative innovation. There are isolated examples that keep coming back – Eric von Hippel’s work on user-led innovation, the technology-based examples from Hank Chesbrough’s book, perhaps some of corporate venture capital-based stories – but little in the way of systematic evidence.”
Professor Julian Birkinshaw London Business School/MLAB

So there’s a case for funding (NESTA?) of some more systematic hypothesis testing, or at least to set up some collaborative intervention that looks into how more supporting data could be generated or
encouraged. Perhaps the first place to start, as mentioned in our analysis of responses relating to hypothesis testing, would be to carry out a more thorough literature review that goes beyond our initial thin-slice; and perhaps there’s a PhD out there that has done, or is doing, just this.


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