Prevalence of User Innovation in the EU: Analysis Based on the Innobarometer Surveys of 2007 and 2009
15. Flowers, S., Sinozic, T., and Patel, P. (2009) Prevalence of User Innovation in the EU: Analysis based on the Innobarometer Surveys of 2007 and 2009. INNO-Metrics Thematic Paper, EU, Brussels: pp27
27 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2013
Date Written: September 18, 2009
Users play an important part in innovation processes and outputs. Both firms and consumers have needs that must be understood for a product to stand any chance of success. They also possess expertise that is potentially valuable for product development. Users may even modify existing products or develop new ones in response to their own needs, possibly anticipating future market demand in the process. However, despite a large body of literature exploring these and other aspects of user involvement in innovation, we still know relatively little about the scale and importance of these activities. This study is the first to explore user innovation amongst a large sample of European firms engaged in innovative activities. It provides new insights into the ways in which European firms innovate and how they engage with their user populations.
The report draws on the results of the 2007 and the 2009 Innobarometer surveys to systematically address two inter-related sets of questions:
• How prevalent is user innovation amongst a large sample of innovating firms in the EU?
• How are firms engaged in user innovation different from the whole population of innovating firms?
One of the major contributions of this study is that it explores three different forms of user innovation: User Process Innovation, User Product Innovation, and User Involvers. Much of the conventional literature on firm-level user innovation has focused on process innovations that arise when firms modify existing technologies or create new technologies for their own use. In this study two other categories of firms are included: those that innovate by improving already existing products and those that involve users in their innovative activities.
The findings show that a substantial minority of innovative firms in the EU are involved in process and product modification (around 30%), and more than half such firms involve users in support of their innovative activities. User innovation is also more or less evenly spread across industrial sectors and across EU countries.
Large firms are more likely to be involved in all forms of user innovation than small firms. For example 39% of all innovative firms with more than 500 employees are User Process Innovators, and in the case of User Involvers this rises to 61%.
A clear message from the analysis undertaken in this report is that firms engaged in user innovation can be classed as “super-innovators”. Compared to other innovative firms, they are more likely to introduce new products, processes or services. They are also more likely to initiate new organizational methods. Moreover a higher proportion of user innovators carry out both intra and extra mural R&D and apply for patents.
The main internal sources of ideas for user innovators are management and production engineers and technicians. Externally the most important source of information, advice or support to help customize or modify comes from the original developer or supplier of these products.
These findings raise a series of issues for the future measurement of this form of innovative activity and the policies that may be developed for its support. A number of promising new directions for future research also emerge from the findings.
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