15 September 2010

Eric von Hippel and 2.9 million British innovators

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Measuring user innovation in the UK
Ethan Zuckerman reports on yesterday’s Berkman Center lunch talk by Eric von Hippel, where he discussed what he called the “Household Sector” innovation.

Eric von Hippel, a long-time affiliate with the Berkman Center, leads off our 2010 season of lunch talks with a discussion of “Household Sector” innovation. To explain his body of work, von Hippel explains that he’s tried to bring thinking about the communications space into the world of physical things, examining how processes we think of as affecting digital media can also apply to other forms of innovation.

Today’s talk introduces a [UK] survey of innovation carried out by customers – there’s 2-3 times more innovation from consumers than there is from the industry. This counters our traditional thinking about innovation. We generally believe that manufacturers dominate innovation – users satisfy their own, personal needs, but manufacturers can spread costs across customers, allowing for innovation that serves wider audiences. As a result, our understanding of intellectual property tends to protect manufacturers, not users.”

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