This leading-edge body of research is concerned with understanding innovation among commercial as well as non-commercial groups like users, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and makers. The theme includes projects conducted in sectors who have previously been subject to little analysis (e.g humanitarian relief) and new forms and approaches to innovation management (e.g. innovation intensive action learning).
We have been supported in this work by a range of funders including the Department for International Development (DFID), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the European Union (EU), the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, and UNICEF.
In this work, amongst other aspects of innovation, we are exploring how NGOs, users, and makers come up with new ideas, how these ideas spread, and the impact they have. Sometimes this process is informal, but often there is an underlying process or system that we aim to uncover and document.
Our research is designed to support and inform both the groups who work in such systems, including user-innovators and managers, and those who wish to support and encourage activity, such as policymakers and strategic managers. It also contributes to the international community of scholars who work on these topics and we regularly contribute to leading journals in this area.
Our research projects focus on fundamental issues concerning the scale, scope and prevalence of innovation by users, NGOs and makers. We have undertaken a series of large-scale studies that were designed to map or measure those people engaged in this type of innovation, how the new ideas that are developed spread, and the difference they make.
This work has allowed us to better understand how individuals and firms create new products and services and how NGOs seek to manage innovation in highly demanding contexts. We have also explored the way in which organisations are able to draw on the expertise that exists within online communities.
To date, the measurement and mapping of such novel forms of innovation has been a large part of our work in this area. Going forward we will be focusing far more on ethnographic approaches in order to gain new insights into the motivations and micro-processes that underpin this type of innovation.