• Popular users: why and how innovation research started to consider users in the innovation process
    No. III (2021)

    Third Issue, 2021

    Popular users: why and how innovation research started to consider users in the innovation process

    Guest Editors

    Rick Hölsgens,  Technische Universität Dortmund (Germany)

    Cornelius Schubert, Technische Universität Dortmund (Germany)



    Users have no doubt become popular in innovation research. They are not considered a passive mass of adopters but as a more or less active agency in innovation processes. Diffusion research has, for instance, distinguished between several adopter categories: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. These categories can be mapped on the diffusion s-curve and indicate a temporal order along which innovations may be analysed. However, early or late adopters were still seen primarily as adopters. Concepts such as “reinvention” or “domestication” then put more emphasis on the ways in which an innovation may be changed within the adoption process. In these cases, innovations came from elsewhere (i.e., manufacturers), but the users were credited with more creative potential than simply adopting novelties. The turn towards user-driven innovations decidedly shifted the creative potential towards (specific) user groups, transgressing the traditional distinction between producers and consumers.

    The involvement of users in innovation processes has been addressed under different labels, for instance, user innovation, open innovation, or participatory design and from different fields such as management and innovation research, science and technology studies, or social innovation studies. The main gist of these approaches lies in reclaiming hitherto neglected aspects, perspectives, or sources of innovations, thus arguing against a top-down producer-centred models of innovation by emphasising bottom-up user-centred modes of innovation. They reconfigure ideas about pushes and pulls, about the constellations and locales in which invention and diffusion occur, and about the transformations of innovations as they emerge and evolve over time and space.

    This thematic issue of NOvation seeks to shed light on this increasing popularity of “the user” in innovation studies. We gather here contributions from diverse backgrounds that critically focus on the role of users in innovation studies, from empowerment and emancipation to valorisation and exploitation. We especially addressed the questions of why users have become popular both empirically and conceptually across a range of fields and spanning from academia to politics and civil society. How does user-centred innovation relate to more traditional models of producer-centred innovation? Which role do critical users play in innovation research? Are there specific fields in which users are seen to be more active than in others? Especially, who is considered to be a user or customer?

    ISSN 2562-7147

  • Responsible Innovation (RI) in the midst of an innovation crisis
    No. II (2020)

    Second Issue, 2020

    Responsible Innovation (RI) in the midst of an innovation crisis

    Guest Editors

    Lucien von Schomberg, University of Greenwich (United Kingdom)

    Vincent Blok, Wageningen University (Netherlands)



    The concept of Responsible Innovation (RI) occupies a central place in the discourse on science and technology, especially in the context of the European Union (EU) but also within academia. This concept is guided by the idea of steering science and technology towards societally desirable outcomes, particularly in response to normative objectives such as Sustainable Development Goals. Visions of RI typically propose that to innovate responsibly requires a permanent commitment to be anticipatory, reflective, inclusively deliberative, and responsive. They also emphasize the need for open access, gender equality, science education, ethical standard in conducting experiments, and democratic governance.

    However, the societal purpose of RI fundamentally conflicts with the imperative of maximizing economic growth inherent in today’s innovation climate. This conflict points to a crisis in which innovation struggles to serve public interests insofar private interests continue to be prioritized. The magnitude of this crisis is also reflected within the RI literature itself, where the political ambition to exceed the privatization wave is summoned to a techno-economic concept of innovation. This issue of NOvation Critical Studies of Innovation brings into question to what extent innovation necessarily relates to the market, whether it is possible to develop an alternative concept of innovation that is separated from economic ends, and how we can conceptualize, for example, a political understanding of innovation. What really is innovation? While all seven contributions share the aspiration to critically reflect on these questions, they each offer a distinct and original perspective in discussing the relation between innovation, technology, politics, economics, and responsibility.

    ISSN 2562-7147

  • Critical Studies of Innovation

    X‐innovation: Re‐inventing Innovation Again and Again
    No. I (2019)

    First Issue, 2019

    X-Innovation: Re-Inventing Innovation Again and Again

    Guest Editors

    Gérald Gaglio, Université Nice Sophia Antipolis (France)

    Benoît Godin, INRS, Montreal (Canada)

    Sebastian Pfotenhauer, Technische Universität München (Germany)



    Innovation is an old word, of Greek origin, that came into the Latin vocabulary in the early Middle Age and into our everyday vocabulary with the Reformation. However, it is only during the second half of the twentieth century that innovation became a fashionable concept and turned into a buzzword. It gave rise to a plethora of terms like technological innovation, organizational innovation, industrial innovation and, more recently, social innovation, open innovation, sustainable innovation, responsible innovation. We may call these terms X-innovation.

    In this way, X-innovation is the latest step to give sense to a century-old process of enlargement of the concept of innovation. Over the last five centuries, innovation enlarged its meaning from the religious to the political to the social to the economical. X-innovation is the more recent such enlargement. It Is the continuation, under new terms, of the contestation of technological innovation as the dominant discourse of the twentieth century.

    How can we make sense of this semantic extension? Why do these terms come into being? What drives people to coin new terms? What effects do the terms have on thought, on culture and scholarship and on policy and politics? Which forms of contestation and appropriation ensue around certain X-innovations? How do they shape, and are shaped by, broader social trends? How to they relate to questions of power and inclusion?

    ISSN 2562-7147