Innovation Crowdsourcing: Exploring the Use of an Innovation Intermediary

Background: With the Open Innovation paradigm come new hopes for innovating companies. The ability to tap a global network of experts can, at least in theory, have a significant impact on an organization’s competitive strength. Before such a ‘network of experts’ can be used to its full potential however, a number of challenges related to knowledge markets seem to need solutions.

About 10 years ago however, we could witness the entry of a new breed of company – calling themselves innovation intermediaries. These companies are built to profit from delivering the usefulness of knowledge networks to client (Seeker) companies. Though the use of such networks and markets have so far been uncommon outside of high-tech fields they are now starting to be seen used by companies in more mature environments.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the collaboration between SCA (a large Swedish corporation) and the innovation intermediary InnoCentive in order to create a better understanding of what kind of benefits can be derived from the use of an innovation intermediary, and how these benefits are best utilized. We also set out to identify relevant limitations of innomediary use and to seek to better understand how using an innomediary can fit a client company’s higher-order activities such as exploration and exploitation.

Completion and Results: Our findings include that SCA are using InnoCentive mainly as a tool to solve highly specific problems and/or problems with a low degree of complexity that they encounter in their everyday activities. The challenges related to knowledge markets, we find, are avoided by keeping problem complexity low and problem modularity high for the problems sent out to the network. In addition, InnoCentive’s business model seems to eliminate costly negotiations between Seekers and Solvers. Using this kind of ‘market solution’ however, we argue, will put bounds on the usefulness of the network and makes it mainly suited as a tool for improving an organization’s exploitation capacity.
Source: Linköping University
Author: Aalto Hagman, Fredrik | Sonde, Claes

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