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The 2010 Open Innovation Accelerator Study The first study comparing the offerings, methods, and competences of intermediaries, consultancies, and brokers for open innovation Behind the term open innovation is a powerful message: Successful innovation is often created in a cooperative mode with external actors. But which is the right method for open innovation? Which are the criteria to plan an open innovation project? Which intermediary or service provider has specific knowledge and expertise in, e.g., crowdsourcing, the lead user method, Netnography, idea contests, technology scouting, or broadcast search? For the first time, this report provides a com- prehensive analysis of the service providers and platforms for open innovation. These intermedia- ries can help organizations to accelerate their open innovation initiative. We take a detailed look on the methods, cost, and project structures. Our purpose is to support strategic decisions when planning an open innovation venture. Managers will gain an overview of the intermediaries available for open innovation from a global perspective and will get advice how to identify partners for their project in a directed way. This report provides decision makers strategic support when setting up an open innovation initiative in their organization:
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The Market for Open Innovation
The 2010 Open Innovation Accelerator Study
The first study comparing the offerings, methods, and competences
of intermediaries, consultancies, and brokers for open innovation
Behind the term open innovation is a powerful
message: Successful innovation is often created in
a cooperative mode with external actors. But which
is the right method for open innovation? Which are
the criteria to plan an open innovation project?
Which intermediary or service provider has specific
knowledge and expertise in, e.g., crowdsourcing,
the lead user method, Netnography, idea contests,
technology scouting, or broadcast search?
For the first time, this report provides a com-
prehensive analysis of the service providers and
platforms for open innovation. These intermedia-
ries can help organizations to accelerate their open
innovation initiative. We take a detailed look on the
methods, cost, and project structures.
Our purpose is to support strategic decisions when
planning an open innovation venture. Managers will
gain an overview of the intermediaries available for
open innovation from a global perspective and will
get advice how to identify partners for their project
in a directed way.
This report provides decision makers strategic support when
setting up an open innovation initiative in their organization:
Different methods for open innovation,
The dynamics and success factors of an open innovation initiative,
Typical project structures and project cost of an open innovation initiative
facilitated by external service providers,
A comprehensive overview of 49 service providers specialized in open innovation.
The report is based on hundreds of interviews with experts and service providers, survey
data and self reports from companies specialized in facilitating open innovation, and
extensive secondary data. An extensive appendix provides detailed information about each
particular open innovation service provider.
The Market for Open Innovation: Increasing the Efficiency and
Effectiveness of the Innovation Process. By Kathleen Diener and Frank
Piller. RWTH-TIM Group 2010. 144 pages. Full Color. Published at €795.
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Kathleen Diener, Frank T. Piller
The Market for Open Innovation: Increasing the efciency and
effectiveness of the innovation process
Kathleen Diener and Frank Piller
Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 2009 - The Authors
Kathleen Diener
Kathleen Diener is a member of the Technology & Innovation Management Re-
search Group at the RWTH Aachen University, Germany, since June 2007. Her research activities consider
investigating the Not-Invented-Here phenomenon and the degree of openness in the innovation process
in terms of different collaboration forms. Before becoming a PhD candidate and a research associate;
she studied psychology at the Humboldt University to Berlin (2000-2007). She wrote her thesis on the
topic of lead user method validating a screening instrument for lead user recruitment.
Frank T. Piller
Frank Piller is a chair professor of management at the Technology & Innovation
Management Group of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, one of Europe’s leading institutes of techno-
logy. He is also a founding faculty member of the MIT Smart Customization Group at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, USA. Before entering his recent position in Aachen in March 2007, he worked
at the MIT Sloan School of Management (BPS, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group, 2004-2007)
and has been an associate professor of management at TUM Business School, Technische Universitaet
Muenchen (1999-2004).
Kathleen Diener and Frank Piller
The Market for Open Innovation: Increasing the efciency and
effectiveness of the innovation process
A market study of intermediaries facilitating the integration of external actors and information from the
firm‘s periphery in the innovation process
Supported by
RWTH Aachen University
Technology & Innovation Management Group
Kackertstr. 15-17, 4th Floor
52072 Aachen
1st Edition January 2010
Copyright © 2010 by Kathleen Diener and Frank Piller, RWTH Aachen University, TIM Group
All rights reserved
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold,
hired out, or otherwise circulated without publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other
than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed
on the subsequent purchaser.
Recently, the term open innovation has become a major buzzword in innovation management. But behind
the buzz is a sustainable message: Successful innovation is not solely performed internally within a firm,
but in a cooperative mode with other external actors. Sources of external input for innovation are plentiful,
including market actors like customers, suppliers, competitors; the scientific system of university labs and
research institutions; public authorities like patent agents and public funding agencies; and mediating
parties like technology consultants, media, and conference organizers. The core idea of a new era of
open innovation is the integration of these actors in a flexible and informal way beyond the traditional
notion of innovation alliances or contract research. New forms of organizing distributed problem solving
like crowdsourcing have become a leitmotif for many innovation departments.
Especially small and medium size enterprises (but also many large corporations), however, face the
challenge of creating the internal ecosystem that allows them to profit from external input in an efficient
and effective way. This challenge is twofold:
1. Firstly, companies have to know which new and established models and tools exist to tap into
external knowledge for innovation in a flexible way. They have to gain knowledge how to operate
these approaches and learn about their success factors.
2. Secondly, companies have to identify and reach the external partners which can help them in
their open innovation process. They require an overview of methods and possible partners who
are specialized in applying these methods.
This report wants to address these challenges. For the first time, it provides a comprehensive analysis
of the providers and platforms for open innovation. These intermediaries can help SMEs to accelerate
their open innovation initiative. That is why we call them Open Innovation Accelerators (OIAs). In the
following sections, we take a detailed look on the methods, sectors, cost, and project structures for open
innovation. Our purpose is to deliver a basis for strategic decisions when planning an open innovation
This market study shall provide managers advice …
• toidentifypossiblemethodsexistinginpracticetocollaborateforopeninnovation,
• tounderstandthemarketofcompaniesofferinghelpwithanopeninnovationprocess,
• toidentifydifferentapproacheswhenoutsourcinganopeninnovationinitiative,
• togainanoverviewoftheactorsavailableforopeninnovationfromaglobalperspective,
• andfinallytoaddresspotentialpartnersforanopeninnovationprojectinadirectedway.
The authors thank the Stiftung Industrieforschung for their generous support to conduct this study and
to survey almost 50 intermediaries for open innovation in a rigid way. We hope that this study may help
managers from SMEs and large enterprises alike to profit from open innovation.
Note for the fast reader
• Foranoverviewonopeninnovationanditsmethods,jumptoChapter2
• Fordirectresultsofourstudyoftheopeninnovationmarketplace,jumptoChapter5
• Tolearnaboutatypicalprojectstructureandprojectcost,gotop.60
• Tolearnhowthedifferentopeninnovationintermediariescanbestructured,headtoSection4.5
• Togetdetailedinformationaboutallintermediaries,gototheAppendix(p.84)
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 9
Table of Content
Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 2009………………………………………………...….... ............ 4
Table of Content………………………………………………………………………………….................... 9
List of Take Aways………………………………………………………………………………...................... 10
List of Tables................……………………………………..…………………………………..................... 11
List of Figures...............……………………………………..………………………………….................... 12
1 Open Innovation: A New Approach to Increase the Efficiency and
Effectiveness of the Innovation Process………………………………………...……............ 13
2 Methods of Open Innovation – A Description of the Three Major Approaches….......... 15
2.1 The Lead User Method……………………………………………………………..…..................... 15
2.1.1 The search for existing lead user innovans……………………………....................... 16
2.1.2 The search for actors with lead user qualities…………………………………............ 17
2.1.3 Stagesofleaduserproject………………………………………………………..............18
2.2 Toolkits for open innovation…………………………………………………………...................... 21
2.3 Innovation contests and “broadcast search” platforms…………………………...…................ 22
3 Intermediaries on the innovation process……………………………………………............. 2 6
3.1 Evolution and notion of intermediaries……………………………………………………............. 26
3.2 Roles and functions of intermediaries…………………………………..…………………............ 28
3.3 Summary–Whattoknowaboutintermediaries……………………………………...................28
4 The Open Innovation Accelerator (OIA) Survey: Mapping the Landscape of
Intermediaries for Open Innovation………………………………………………...……........... 31
4.1 Methodology: The OIA Questionnaire……………………………………………..……................ 32
4.2 Sample Composition………………………………………………………………..…….................. 32
4.3 Analysis: The structure and market of open innovation offerings……………………. ............ 35
4.3.1 Methods offered for the open innovation process……………………….................... 41
4.3.2 Projectstructureandprojectcosts……………………………………………................61
4.4 The OIA-Cube: A conceptual model to map the collaboration between an
organization and its external environment………………………………………….................... 6 6
4.5 Clustering the market of OIAs………………………………………………………...................... 68
5 Collaborating with Intermediaries: Managerial Implications……………………..…......... 72
5.1 Define the context and kind of information required………………………………..….. ............ 73
5.2 Considering cost and success rates when engaging an OIA………………...…..…............... 76
References………………………………………………………………………………..….……..….............. 77
Appendix: Profiles of the Open Innovation Accelerators…………………………...……..…........... 85
Overview…………………………………………………………………………...………................. 86
Profiles of individual OIAs considered in the analysis……………………....…………............ 91
Profiles of individual OIAs not considered in the analysis…………………………...…........... 135
Stiftung Industrieforschung – Sponsor of the OIA survey……………………………………........... 143
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey10
List of Take Aways
Box 1: Open Innovation as a new approach for innovation management………………..... 14
Box 2: Core principles of open innovation…………………………………………………....... 25
Box 3: What are intermediaries in the innovation process?........................................... 30
Box 4: What are open innovation accelerators (OIAs)?................................................. 31
Box 5: Survey approach and data sample…………………………………………………........ 34
Box6: MarketsofOIAs’projects……………………………………………………………........ 39
Box 7: OIA size and market…………………………………………………………………......... 40
Box8: OIAsandthestagesoftheinnovationprocesstheyoperatein………………….... 42
Box 9: Kinds of open innovation approaches OIAs offer…………………………………...... 53
Box 10: Community manager and their community characteristics………………………...... 59
Box11: AveragecostsforOIAservices…………………………………………………….......... 62
Box 12: Open innovation approaches and their forms of collaboration…………………....... 71
Box13: ThedevelopmentoftheOIAmarket………………………………………………......... 76
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 11
List of Tables
Table 1: OIAs surveyed for this study……………………………………………………...…........ 33
Table2: OIAmarketandindustryfocus……………………………………………………........... 36
Table3: GeographicaldistributionofOIAactivity…………………………………………….......38
Table 4: Focus of OIAs on different stages of the innovation process……………………...... 42
Table 5: Types of open innovation approaches………………………………………………....... 44
Table6: MethodologicalapproachesofOIAsandtoolstoaccomplishopen
innovation………………………………………………………………………………......... 47
Table 7: Service approach and idea contest as a kind of competition offered……………..... 51
Table8: Serviceapproachandsolutionseekingasakindofcompetitionoffered……….....51
Table 9: Service approach and kind of workshop offered………………………………........... 52
Table 10: Service approach and kind of workshop offered………………………………........... 52
Table 11: Service approach and toolkit / virtual market place offered………………………..... 53
Table 12: Type of community applied by OIAs…………………………………………………....... 55
Table13: AccessregulationfortheOIAcommunity…………………………………………........ 56
Table 14: Community affiliation…………………………………………………………………......... 57
Table 15: Categorization of OIA‘s integration of different external actors by
  needvs.solutioninformation……………………………………………………………....58
Table16: Matchingaccessandthekindofinformationintegrated…………………………...... 60
Table17: OIAcommunitiesregardingtheiraccessregulationandtypeofinformation......... 60
Table18: OIAsparticipatingthesurveyandinterview………………………………………........ 61
Table19: FeestructureofOIAs…………………………………………………………………........ 62
Table20: Pricerangeforopeninnovationprojects……………………………………………...... 63
Table21: FeestructureoftheOIAs……………………………………………………………......... 64
Table22 Type1:Opencall–restrictedaccess–needinformation………………………....... 69
Table23: Type2:Opencall–restrictedaccess–solutioninformation……………………...... 69
Table24: Type3:Opencall–non-restrictedaccess–needinformation………………….......69
Table25: Type4:Opencall–non-restrictedaccess–solutioninformation………………......69
Table26: Type5:OpenSearch–restrictedaccess–needinformation……………………..... 70
Table27: Type6:OpenSearch–restrictedaccess–solutioninformation…………….......... 70
Table28: Type7:OpenSearch–non-restrictedaccess–needinformation……………….... 70
Table29: Type8:OpenSearch–non-restrictedaccess–solutioninformation………..........70
Table 30: Defining the right open innovation approach: Matching information requirement
and type of initiating the collaboration………………………………………………....... 73
Table 31: OIAs regarding open innovation approach and information type……………........... 74
Table 32: Open call………………………………………………………………………………........... 75
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey12
List of Figures
Figure1: Leaduservs.traditionalapproach………………………………………………........... 16
Figure2: Leaduserprocess.......……………………............................................................ 18
Figure 3: Traditional vs. Toolkit approach…………………………………………………............. 21
Figure 4: Evolution of Intermediaries………………………………………………………….......... 27
Figure 5: Classification of Intermediaries in the innovation process…………………….......... 30
Figure6: OIAmarketandindustryfocus………………………………………………………........ 35
Figure 7: Cumulative increase of OIAs in the past decades…………………………………...... 40
Figure8: Stagesoftheinnovationprocess……………………………………………………....... 41
Figure9: Typeofserviceapproach……………………………………………………………......... 46
Figure 10: Methods to accelerate the open innovation process………………………………...... 49
Figure 11: Type of community access……………………………………………………….............. 55
Figure12: TypeofexternalactorsintegratedbytheOIAs…………………………………….......58
Figure 13: OIA Cube: A Framework to map the activities of an open innovation
  accelerator……………………………………………………………………………........... 66
Figure14: TypesofOIAcluster............................………………………….............................. 68
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 13
Managing uncertainty can be regarded as a core
practice of successful innovation management.
Firms face various sources of uncertainty with re-
gard to their technological and managerial capa-
bilities and their target markets. Thomke (2003)
differentiates uncertainties of an innovation pro-
ject into technical, production, need, and market
uncertainty. To reduce these uncertainties, firms
need to access and transfer different types of in-
generic framework, this information can be divided
• Information on customer and market needs
(“need information”), i.e. information about pre-
ferences, needs, desires, satisfaction, motives,
etc. of the customers and users of a new product
or new service offering. Better access to suffici-
ent need-related information from customers is
increasing the effectiveness of the innovation
activities. It reduces the risk of failure. Need
information builds on an in-depth understanding
and appreciation of the customers’ require-
ments, operations and systems. This information
is transferred by means of market research
techniques from customers to manufacturers.
• Information on (technological) solution possi-
bilities (“solution information”), i.e. information
about how to apply a technology to transform
customer needs into new products and services
best. Access to solution information is prima-
rily addressing the efficiency of the innovation
process. Better solution information enables
product developers to engage in more directed
problem-solving activities in the innovation pro-
cess. The more complex and radical an innova-
tion is, the larger in general the need to access
solution information from different domains.
All innovations are characterized by both types of
knowledge, although their relative proportions may
vary (Nambisan, Agarwal, and Tanniru 1999). Need
and solution information may be located physically
in different places which are often external to the
firm‘s innovation process (Nonaka and Takeutchi
1995). It is necessary to transfer at least a cer-
tain amount of each type of information from one
place to another as successful innovation requi-
res a combination of the two. Caloghirou, Kastelli,
and Tsakanikas (2004) conclude after a study of
information exchange in new product development
projects that “[…] both internal capabilities and
openness towards knowledge sharing are important
for upgrading innovative performance.” The inno-
vation process thus can be seen as a continuous
interaction between internal actors of a firm and
and Eisenhardt 1995; Chesbrough 2003; Free-
man and Soete 1997; Reichwald and Piller 2009;
need and solution information has to be transferred
from various external actors into the innovation
function of the firm. One of the fundamental sour-
ces of information for innovation is the customer.
Today, the common understanding of the innovation
1 Open Innovation:
A New Approach to Increase the Efciency
and Effectiveness of the Innovation Process
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey14
process builds on the observation that firms rarely
innovate alone and that the innovation process can
be seen as an interactive relationships among pro-
ducers, users and many other different institutions
that innovation projects which are based to a large
extent on external developments have shorter de-
velopment times and demand less investments than
similar projects based solely on internal research &
development. As a result, the early Schumpeterian
model of the lone entrepreneur bringing innovations
to markets (Schumpeter 1942) has been superseded
by a richer picture of different actors in networks
actors are seen to work together in an interactive
process of discovery, realization and exploitation of
a new idea. Innovative performance today is seen to
a large extent as the ability of an innovative organi-
zation to establish networks with external entities.
The main effect of including external information
is to enlarge the base of information that can be
utilized for the innovation process. In a conventio-
nally “closed” system of innovation, only information
about needs and solution information that is in the
domain of the manufacturer can be used as creative
input for the innovation process, a problem that has
been called the “local search bias” (Lakhani et al.
system more open to external input, the need and
solution information of the firm is extended by the
large base of information about needs, applications,
and solution technologies that resides in the domain
of customers, retailers, suppliers, and other external
parties. Thus, just by increasing the potential pool of
information, better results should become possible.
Recen tly, the term open inn ovation has been used
to characterize a system where innovation is not
solely performed internally within a firm, but in a
cooperative mode with other external actors (Fred-
innovation is opposed to closed innovation, in which
companies use only ideas generated within their
boundaries, characterized by big corporate research
la bs and cl os ely ma naged ne twork s of vert icall y
integrated partners (Chesbrough 2003). Open inno-
vation is characterized by cooperation for innovati-
on within wide horizontal and vertical networks of
universities, start-ups, suppliers, and competitors.
Companies can and should use external ideas as
well as those from their own R&D departments,
and both internal and external paths to the market,
in order to advance their technology. Sources of
external information for the innovation process
are plentiful, including market actors like custo-
mers, suppliers, competitors; the scientific system
of university labs and research institutions; public
authorities like patent agents and public funding
agencies; and mediating parties like technology con-
sultants, media, and conference organizers (Hau-
The open innovation mechanism allows organization to acquire, integrate and process
external information more efciently and effectively.
It is a new form of interacting and collaborating with the external environment of a company
including various potential external actors (beyond suppliers, customers, universities etc).
By applying methods of open innovation an organization can overcome its local search
bias and acquire precise need information and therefore innovate more successful and
cost efcient.
Box 1: Open Innovation as a new approach for innovation management
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 15
In this section, we introduce three methods that
help to put open innovation into practice. While
consultants and companies often announce fancy
new methods of open innovation, all of them can
be brought back onto these three basic approaches
which have been described in the literature. In this
chapter, we take the perspective of a manufactu-
rer who actively wants to create and stimulate the
process of open innovation. All methods focus on
either accessing need or solution information, or
on providing a combined access to these factors.
Some instruments are designed for an active in-
tegration of innovative users and customers into
an innovation process. Other instruments focus
on the transfer of solutions from external experts
answering an open call for cooperation. In particular,
we will describe the following clusters of methods:
• The lead user method first identifies innovative
users. In a second step, these users are then
integrated by means of innovation workshops.
Although the focus here is primarily on acces-
sing need information, the lead user method
also is a proven practice when it comes to ac-
cessing innovative (technological) solutions.
Toolkits for open innovation are Internet-
based instruments which aim at supporting
users in transferring their needs into new
product concepts. When accessing need
information, toolkits should help over-
come the problem of “sticky” information.
Innovation contests ai m at the gener ation of
input for all stages of the innovation process.
Competitions between users and customers
aim at encouraging innovative ideas at the
frontend of the innovation process. Innovati-
on contests can also begin in a later stage in
the innovation process; usually in searches
for innovative approaches to a technical pro-
blem within a broad field of problem solvers.
2.1 The Lead User Method
The lead user method is a qualitative, process-
oriented approach. It aims at the active integration
of selected users to generate ideas and concepts
for new product or process innovations. Lead users
have, before others, within a target market a per-
sonal need for a specific solution (a product, a pro-
cess, a certain type of material, see Figure 1). They
expect a very high personal benefit from the new
development fulfilling their need. Lead users thus
anticipate early on innovative characteristics, which
are relevant only much later for other customers.
Lead users additionally have the ability to develop a
fully functional solution for their needs. They, hence
possess not only need information, but equally
An example of a lead user could be a master tech-
nician in a factory who is the first to use a new
material. The master technician realizes that the
machine does not fulfill certain requirements for
pr oc essin g t his mate rial. The fac to ry’s sales de -
partment has asked him to process the material in
a certain way so that new security regulations on
2 Methods of Open Innovation –
A Description of the Three Major Approaches
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey16
2.1.1 The search for existing lead user
As an initial strategy, manufacturers can look for
existing lead user innovations within their sector.
This idea supports the common view on lead users
as independent innovators. On one hand , the ge-
neral consensus is that these users become active
and innovate because of an unsatisfied need. On
the other, lead users become active and create
new applications because they want to benefit
from the sol ut ion t hemselv es. B ut th eir s olution s
must be transferred to the manufacturer’s domain.
Here, the focus is on accessing need information.
Lead users innovate autonomously and to a great
extent not in cooperation with a manufacturer.
A manufacturer’s job is to “merely” recognize the fini-
shed innovation and con-
vert the idea into a marke-
table product, which then
becomes readily available
to other customers. Con-
sider the example of the
sp ort ing good s in dus try.
Since discovering the
lead user phenomenon,
many sporting goods ma-
nufacturers today syste-
ma tical ly obs erve cus to-
mers who are active in
extreme sports, and the
equipment they use when
competing. In this way,
manufacturers stay on
top of developments oc-
curring within the user‘s
domain (Baldwin, Hie-
cumentation of this development in the extreme
sport of rodeo kayaking). In a narrower sense,
however, sheer observation is not enough. The
lead user approach goes further and builds on an
intensive interaction and cooperation with the user.
Manufacturers can support customers while they
are innovating. Stata Corp., a leading manufacturer
of statistical software, sets a good example. The
company counts on users to interactively co-deve-
lop their products. In the process, they have also
found an acceptable way to deal with the resulting
an export market are fulfilled. However, the master
technician cannot properly process the material
using the existing machine. Because of the pres-
sure coming from the sales department, he experi-
ments, for example, with different settings or makes
modifications to the machine which enable him to
process the new material in the required way. These
activities take place autonomously in the domain of
the user and remain unknown to the manufacturer
(in our case, the machine builder of the processing
machine). This example demonstrates that a lead
user does not have to be a single person, but can
also be a group of different actors in the user‘s
domain (in our example, the need information lies
in the sales departmen t; th e pro blem solving com-
petence, however, with the master technician).
Although the lead user method has already been
described in the past (Urban and von Hippel
fusion over what this method is exactly about.
Therefore, we distinguish between two procedu-
res how companies can profit from lead users:
• Searching for existing lead user innovations
in the user domain and transferring these to
the company.
• Searching for people with lead user qualities and
integrating them into an innovation workshop
organized for solving a given technical problem.
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 17
output, which closes the gap between an “open”
and “closed” system. Stata’s customers are often
scienti sts o r ind ustrial quality contr ollers, who use
the software for a large number of statistical tests.
In case the applications provided within the software
cannot solve a certain task (elegantly) enough,
new tests can be programmed simply. Therefore,
Stata has divided its software into two modules.
One module contains basic features developed by
the company and is protected by proprietary rights
(sold over a traditional software license). The se-
cond part is open. A user community contributes
new statistical algorithms and tests. Stata supports
these expert users by providing a development
environment and a forum on the Internet where
users trade tests, ask questions, and expand the
developments of others. But since not all users
are well-versed in, or have sufficient programming
knowledge, Stata has developed a procedure in
which the “best” or most popular developments
from the user community are regularly selected by
the company and made part of the next commercial
release. This decision is made ent irely by Stata’s
software developers, who take and improve user
applications and integrate them smoothly into the
standard software. This additional value created by
Strata is also an incentive for users to make their
personal developments available to the company
without asking for monetary return (simply because
their motives for developing a new application were
using it in their own scientific work in the first place).
In this understanding of the lead user method, the
company’s sales force takes an important role.
Sales employees should be made aware of and
given incentives to look out for innovative solutions
coming from customers, who “think outside of the
box”. Alternatively, a separate department within
the company can also search directly for innovati-
ve customers. For this purpose, the stages 1 to 3
of the lead user process, as described in Section
2.1.3, can be used to search for people with lead
user characteristics. However, this understanding
of the lead user method basically falls back on
those lead users who have already created inno-
va tiv e so luti ons . Be cau se o f th is, for man y ma -
nufacturers the lead user method often appears
unsystematically and its outcome left to chance.
2.1.2 The search for actors with lead user
The second interpretation of the lead user method
counts on a far more active role of the company
and is based upon developing new solutions inter-
actively with internal and external actors (Herstatt
and von Hippel 1992; Lettl, Hienerth, and Gemu-
Thomke, and Sonnack 1999). This idea is based
upon the realization that there are people with lead
user characteristics, who may not yet have become
actively involved in a problem solving activity. If
suitable methods are available for identifying and
convincing these people to cooperate, then a gi-
ven problem could be solved cooperatively and
innovatively with internal and external developers.
Accessing solution information and broadening the
field of search for innovative alternatives is at the
center of attention here. A typical indicator for this
type of approach is lead user workshops. An ideal
structure for this method follows four phases, which
will described closer in the following passages.
Still, another important point needs to be made.
Lead users found through this method are often not
users in the manufacturer’s domain, but come from
analogous industries. They have the same basic
problem, but often at a higher, extremer level. Or
they have already dealt with it under conditions in
the past, which needed a solution more urgently.
Since they are not users (or even customers) from
the manufacturer’s point of view, they are also called
“lead experts”. A well-known example comes from
the development of the antilock brake system (ABS)
in the car industry (repeated here in a simplified
version). In dangerous situations, the tendency of
wheels to block through strong braking pressure is
counteracted by reg ulating brake pressure i n short
intervals. The idea originated in the field of aviation.
Already in 1920, the French aviation pioneer Ga-
briel Voisin used a hydraulic anti-blocking system.
Mechanical systems prevented the wheels from
blocking, so that when the airplane landed, it re-
a patent for a device, which prevented wheels from
blocking on an automobile. The machines existed of
about 1,000 analogous parts and were very unwieldy
and slow. Digital technology reduced the amount
of parts to about 140 pieces, which allowed ABS to
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey18
team members first evaluate, which product range
is especially suited for the lead user method: Is
there a high amount of pressure to innovate within
a specific product area? Is the product’s manage-
ment persuaded by the method and ready to invest
time and financial expenses? Are innovative cus-
tomers already known to the product management
or does good access to the customer base exist?
Phase 2: Trend Analysis: The lead user process
starts with a trend analysis. A trend defines a basic,
measurable social, economic, or technological de-
velopment. Different options are available to identify
these types of trends. Commonly, first definitions of
trends come from studying sector and technology
reports, publications by external research institu-
tions as well as applying methods of interpolation
and hi storical analogy. In addition, internal experts
from research and development or sales can deliver
first clues on new trends. Furthermore, qualitati-
ve techniques like the Delphi Method or scenario
analysis assist in forecasting trends (de Lurgio
a div erg ence b etwee n the f oreca st and th e time
when the actual event occurs. To minimize at least
the amount of mistakes in forecasting,
trend research requires special care, at-
tention and methodological knowledge.
While the activities in phase one and
two are common activities in many inno-
vation projects, they are very important
in relation to the lead user method and
therefore, should be carried out by the
same team which is also responsible for
the following steps – so that the contri-
butions and ideas of lead users can be interpreted
within one context determined by the company.
Phase 3: Identification of Lead Users and Lead
Experts: Now i t is a mat t er of i dent i fyin g inno -
vative users and experts who are leaders in the
defined trends. The main challenge is to find the
characteristics of innovative users represented
in the population of all potential users in order to
separate lead users from less innovative users.
Especially with radical innovations and market in-
novations, defining the basic population is often
difficult. Further, empirical studies have shown that
innovative users exist not only in the real target
go into mass production. It was first presented in
rican company ITT Automotive. In this example, the
lead users were members of the aircraft industry,
where the same problem (the prevention of wheels
blocking and therefore getting off track) was more
common, but at a higher extreme than in the vehicle
industr y. Ther efore, the search for a suitable solu-
tion started in the field of aviation first, was found
and then used. Thus, the search for a solution to
the problem of wheels blocking in the car industry
profited from a search for solutions in another area.
In the following, we outline a way for companies to
find lead users or lead experts in order to receive
access to innovative solution information (see
Figure 2). The first two steps are rather general in
nature and are typical activities in many innovation
management projects. The pivotal phase lies in the
identification of lead users or lead experts. The last
phase, developing a common concept together with
identified lead users or lead experts in a workshop,
builds on the idea of an interactive value creation
process, in which an innovative solution is developed
collaboratively between manufacturer and customers.
2.1.3 Stages of a lead user project
Phase 1: Initializing the Project: In the first phase,
the company assembles an internal project team,
which is responsible for the method’s implementa-
tion. As required for many tasks in innovation ma-
nagement, this team should consist of experienced
employees from the areas of research and develop-
ment, production, and marketing. When choosing
team members, time restrictions should be kept in
mind. Case studies report that each team member
commits an average of about 20 hours per week to a
project lasting from four to six months (Herstatt and
von Hippel 1992; von Hippel, Thomke, and Sonnack
1999). Through interviews with decision makers,
Figure 2: Lead user process (Reichwald and Piller 2009)
Step 1
lead user
project initiation
Step 2
Step 3
lead user
Step 4
Project team
Definition target
Definition objectives
of project
Desk research
Expert interviews
Delphi method
Scenario analysis
Analogous markets
Lead user workshop
Evaluation and
documentation of the
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 19
as an efficient and effective way to identify lead
users (von Hippel, Thomke, and Sonnack 1999).
Bo th p roc edu res req uir e fi rst tha t th e ch ara cte -
ristics of innovative users are transferred to a set
of questions pertaining to the innovation project.
The way interviewees answer the questions gives
insight on whether a person is likely to be selected
for participation in a lead user workshop. Where-
as screening describes a parallel search method,
pyramiding is a sequential search. Which search
method is most suitable in identifying innovative
customers cannot be exactly determined. Howe-
ver, the following assumptions may be considered.
Pyramiding is particularly suitable when the
future population of potential innovative custo-
mers is hard to separate (technical and radical
innovations) within the area to explore, a strong
social network among the interviewees exists,
and the questionnaire for identifying innovative
customers consists of a few simple questions
to be answered.
Screening is suitable when the population of po-
tential customers can be well separated (incre-
mental and market innovations) or only a very
weak social network among the interviewees
is assumed, and the questionnaire for identifi-
cation is extensive and complicated (see Lang
2005 for a current example taken from industry).
At this point, it should be clear that there is no “right
way” of identifying innovative users. Each method
has its advantages as well as its disadvantages
and in some cases, it might be sensible to combine
different methods. For example, after successfully
applying pyramiding conducting a screening as a
follow-up for more information about the suitability
of selected users. In the end, this phase results in a
pool of innovative people from which to choose from.
In many cases, however, lead users become acti-
ve out of their own accord without a manufacturer
animating or identifying them. Therefore, manufac-
turers can select users, who have already shown
innovative behavior. Many lead user innovations
are discovered by manufacturers by chance, (and
are often at first classified as unimportant), or are
brought by the lead user to a manufacturer. In this
way, the company also receives access to lead user
ma rke t of the inn ovat ion , bu t al so i n an alo gou s
markets (von Hippel, Thomke, and Sonnack 1999).
An analogous market resembles the target market
with regards to customer needs and/or the techno-
logy used, but often belongs to another industry.
Especially lead users coming from these markets
can contribute to an innovation in an interactive
value creation process decisively, because they
permit a combination of knowledge from various
domains and therefore, often broaden the solution
space (an example would be using military experts
as lead users in the evaluation of satellite pictures
for defining an innovative solution for the automa-
tic interpretation of X-ray pictures). However, the
identification of analogous markets is often not
easy, and no te xtbook m ethods e xi st in this area.
To identify innovative users, a range of methodo-
logical possibilities are available to companies.
“Screening” and “pyramiding” are the two search
techniques that are most often discussed (von Hip-
users resembles the procedure of a dragnet inves-
tigation. A defined group of people are checked
against a list of characteristics and requirements.
Those who match with the listed criteria are selected
as lead users. The pyramiding approach describes
a networking between actors. The approach follows
the idea that experts regarding a certain topic are
able to nominate another person with even more
expertise than themselves (von Hippel 2005). During
the search, the lead user team starts with asking
people “whom would you ask to solve this problem”.
The identified target is asked the same questi-
on . Ex per ien ce sho ws t hat after som e it era tio n,
a few experts are named frequently. Pyramiding
draws back on the fact that most radical innova-
tions come from lead users in advanced analogous
fields. Those experts face a problem similar to the
one of the target market but to a higher extreme
and with different constraints. Such conditions force
the lead users to come up with new solutions (von
Hippel 2005). In general, experts in a certain field
dealing with leading-edge problems need to pursue
a search across boundaries to find relevant solu-
tion in formati on . Thu s t he y t end to k now specia -
lists with even more knowledge in advanced fields.
This process of networking from one innovator to a
more advanced one has been identified in studies
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey20
tinction between intuitive and discursive techniques.
Intuitive methods are designed to promote thought
associations, while discursive methods aim at a
systematic, logical process-oriented solution search.
Ideas and suggested solutions generated in this
way are, if possible, presented during the workshop
by t he c ompa ny’s exp erts and if a simu lati on
with rapid prototyping is possible – are realized
in order to integrate the participants in their eva-
luation. The workshop’s results are documented
an d ass e sse d by t h e co m pan y. Mar k et p o ten t i-
al, the degree of innovation as well as an idea’s
“fit” with the company’s product program and re-
sources are criteria for assessment, for example.
Ideas that are rated positively are then taken into
other workshops for further development or are
fed into the company’s internal innovation process.
The lead user method has proven itself in practice
in two fields:
• In the search for new applications in a company’s
existing business segment. This is the form of
the lead user method as described in the of-
ten cited case study based upon the method’s
application in 3M’s medical technology divisi-
on, (Thomke 1999; von Hippel, Thomke, and
Sonnack 1999), and the way it is presented in vi-
deos on the method. This field is about the com-
bined search for needs and solution knowledge.
• The search for single technological solutions
for a given question, for whic h a ccess solution
information is required. This is, in our judgment,
the most widespread use of the method today.
Concluding an important note: In our opinion, the
lead user method is currently in great demand.
There are countless offers made by consultancies
which offer “lead user workshops” as part of their
service package. In many cases, however, these
consultants have only renamed focus group discus-
sions, which have absolutely nothing in common
with the goals of the real lead user method. Also,
the term is not universally defined. For example,
pilot customers are often called lead users as well.
Pilot customers can play an essential role in market
launches, but have completely different characteris-
tics than lead users. From a practical point of view,
information without a formal proc es s. Users, who
already have brought innovations to the market
independently in the past, often represent a bundle
of potential for future company-defined innovation
projects. Building a relationship with a successfully
identified lead user becomes thus an important task.
Phase 4: Concept Design in Lead User Workshops:
In this phase, the identified innovative users and
experts are invited by the manufacturer to attend an
innovation workshop, in which ideas and concepts
are further developed for the defined project. All
preliminary steps served basically as a means to
carry out the workshop successfully. The quality
of the workshop’s results determines the success
of the lead use r pr oje ct. Even if t her e is no e x-
act, fixed way of successfully executing a lead
user workshop, there are some elements in par-
ticular that we want to talk about in the following.
A workshop is made up of approximately 10 to 15
users, the company’s internal “lead user team,”
and an experienced moderator, who monitors the
workshop. Workshops last between a half-day
and two days (depending upon the complexity of
the problem). The role of the (usually external)
moderator is to mediate the contributions made
by the participants. The moderator also performs
important methodological support in stimulating
and structuring participant contributions. Besi-
des professional exchange, workshops are also
marked by social exchange between the partici-
pants. A moderator should work at dispelling pos-
sible tension and use the group’s heterogeneity
to activate a productive solution-finding process.
Workshops usually begin with a briefing led by the
internal team, a presentation of the basic product
ra nge, a defi nitio n o f t he probl em as wel l a s t he
problem to be solved. It is important to formulate
exactly, which results are expected by the end of the
workshop. Afterwards, the participants are stimula-
ted to generate their own ideas for solving the prob-
lem in several rounds through the use of well-chosen
creative problem solving techniques. Creative prob-
lem solving techniques are methods that accelerate
the flow of ideas in groups, get rid of mental blocks,
extend the search direction, and formulate the prob-
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 21
degree of elaboration often requires a more struc-
tured approach for the interaction with customers.
In order to obtain an adequate solution for an in-
novation problem, firms needs to combine need
in forma tion fro m t he cus tomer do main w ith thei r
own solution information. As first solutions are not
always best, firms usually repeat this process se-
veral times and evaluate possible solutions for an
innovation problem in an iterative process. This
process of trial and error is very expensive, be-
cause it fosters a steady flow of it eration and com-
munication between the user and manufacturer.
Because of the “stickiness” of (location-dependent)
needs and solution information, the exchange bet-
ween both parties is often tedious and accompa-
Toolkits for open innovation are based upon the
idea of handing over the trial and error process
to customers (Franke and Piller 2004; von Hippel
and Katz 2002; Thomke and von Hippel 2002). A
toolkit is a development envi ro nm en t, which ena-
bles customers to transfer their needs iteratively
to a concrete solution – often without coming into
personal contact with the manufacturer. The manu-
facturer provides users with an interaction platform,
where they can make a solution according to their
needs using the toolkit’s available solution space.
In order to operate efficiently, toolkits
should fulfill five basic requirements (von
Hippel and Katz 2002): (1) Trial and error
learning: Toolkit users should receive
simulated feedback on their solution in
order to evaluate it and to improve on it in
an iterative process. In this way, learning
by doing processes are facilitated. (2)
Solution space: A toolkit’s solution space
defines all variations and combinations
of allowed possible solutions. Basically,
the solution space only permits those so-
lutions, which take specific technical re-
strictions into account and are producible
from the manufacturer’s perspective. (3)
User friendliness: User friendliness de-
scribes how users perceive the quality of interaction
with the toolkit. Expenses influence the user’s per-
ception of quality, (time, intellectual effort), as well
lead user workshops are a successful, but expen-
sive procedure in open innovation. Their success
depends upon the right choice and recruitment of
suitable participants as well as on the organization
and moderation of the workshop itself. Even if the
success of the lead user method is impressively
documented in many books and articles (Gruner
and Homburg 2000; Herstatt and von Hippel 1992;
2005; von Hippel, Thomke, and Sonnack 1999),
only a few companies really carry out lead user
projects regularly and systematically in practice.
2.2 Toolkits for open
A completely different procedure in open innova-
tion is the employment of toolkits for open inno-
vation (also known as toolkits for user innovati-
on and co-design; von Hippel 2001; von Hippel
and Katz 2002; Franke and Piller 2003). Toolkits
ar e f oc used on int egrat ing custom er input in th e
innovation process. The primary goal of toolkits
is to access need information in a more efficient
manner than possible through traditional means.
They also aim at interacting with a large number
of customers which often are “average” customers,
i.e. including also those that do not obtain lead
user characteristics. Toolkits can be placed in the
development stage of the innovation process. Here,
customer inputs have to be more concrete and ela-
borated in order to be valuable for firms. A higher
Figure 3: traditional vs. Toolkit approach (according to Thomke and von Hippel 2002)
Test (Feedback)
Traditional Approach
Transfer of
need information
Test (Feedback)
Transfer of
solution information
Toolkit Approach
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey22
blocks.” These building blocks lie within the range of
a manufacturer’s economic and technological capa-
bility. Well-known examples of these types of toolkits
are Dell’s product configurator and configurators
found, for example, in the automobile industry. Ano-
ther well-know example is the strategy of toy-maker
LEGO and its LEGO Factory, an advanced toolkit
for user innovation targeting the children market.
2.3 Innovation contests and
“broadcast search
The previ ou sly d iscussed methods of open inno-
vation assume that an innovative user will either
be innovative independently or in cooperation with
a company. A decisive impulse and motivation for
users to cooperate is the prospect of using the re-
sults of an innovation immediately – either through
a self-built prototype, as in the case of the autono-
mous lead user, or by building a specific good that
satisfies a particular need over a manufacturer’s
toolkit. The method introduced in this section ext-
ends the previous approach by a new perspective.
In an innovation contest, a company calls on its
customers, users, or experts in the general public
either to disclose innovative ideas and suggestions
for product improvement, or it asks for a very spe-
cific solution for a dedicated (technical) innovative
task. The contests come in different types. They
can be a very broad call for contributions directed
at all (potential) customers of the company and/
or a very dedicated question to a smaller team of
specialists. Their common objective is to increase
the spectrum of a solution as well as the scalability
of participation. We will take a closer look on the
organization of innovation contests in the following.
Many manufacturers today have set up in-house
suggestion boxes to collect ideas and suggesti-
ons for improvement from their employees. They
are generally hosted over the company’s Intra-
net platform. Likewise, idea contests provide a
st ruc tur e for g ivi ng s ugg est ion s a nd n ew i dea s.
Usually, a private or public entity organizes an idea
contest as an invitation to the general public or a
specific target group to submit their contributions
within a certain period of time. Submissions are
evaluated by a committee with help of an asses-
as the perceived benefit, (satisfaction with the de-
veloped solution, fun), of interacting with the toolkit.
(4) Modules and components library: Modules and
comp on ents libraries allo w use rs to choose from
predefined solution chunks for their convenience.
Such libraries may also contain additional functio-
nalities such as programming languages, visuali-
zation tools; help menus, drawing software, etc.
(5) Transferring customer solutions: After users
have developed the best possible solution for their
needs, it should be transferred to the manufacturer.
A transfer over toolkits allows for perfect communi-
cation of the customer‘s solution, which is conveni-
ently translated into the manufacturer’s “language”.
Following Franke and Schreier (2002), we distingu-
ish two types of toolkits according to the degrees of
freedom that the underlying solution space provides
to customers: (1) toolkits for user innovation and
(2) toolkits for user co-design and customization.
(1) Toolkits for user innovation resemble, in prin-
ciple, a chemistry set. Their solution space or, at
least some of the product’s design parameters,
is boundless. Toolkit users not only combine the
manufacturer’s standard modules and components
to create the best possible product for themselves,
but they also expend a tremendous amount of effort
in experimenting through trial and error processes
on new and up to now, unknown solutions for their
needs. The manufacturer’s toolkit provides the
necessary solution information in the form of, for
example, programming languages or drawing soft-
ware. A good example comes from the semiconduc-
tor industry where firms equipped customers with
toolkits for custom development of integrated circuits
and computer chips (von Hippel and Katz 2002).
(2) On the other hand, toolkits for user co-design
and customization are used for product individua-
lization and adoption, rather than developing new
goods and services. It can be compared to a set of
Lego bricks. Toolkits for user co-design offer users
more or less a large choice of individual building
blocks (modules, components, parameters), which
can be configured to make a product according
to the user’s individual requirements. Therefore,
the toolkit’s solution space is limited and can be
modified only according to its predefined “building
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 23
a specific technical problem. The target group of an
idea contest depends upon the topic’s specificity
because often special qualities or competencies are
a prerequisite for participation. Thus, the announce-
ment of the Federal Center for Health Education is
directed at the general public, while the idea compe-
tition of the Technical University Munich addresses
students, employees, scientists, professors and
alum ni of this unive rsity. For both ide a c ontests ,
however, participants do not require any special pre-
knowledge or information. Contests in the sciences
or engineering and architecture, however, often re-
quire comprehensive knowledge and a long-standing
preoccupation with the subject as a prerequisite
for participation in the competition. This can often
limit the number of possible participants extremely.
As already mentioned, idea competitions can also
take place within a firm. Today, many companies
have an Intranet portal on which employees can
submit their ideas and suggestions for improve-
ment. However, most of these actions are often
very broad and not consistently integrated into
the innovation process. In our opinion, however,
an idea contest should not simply be a type of
virtual mailbox that is open for every kind of input
possible. It should grasp specific input for a spe-
cific innovation project. IBM’s “Innovation Jams”
provide a good example of focused competitions,
which are directed at a very wide internal target
group: the company’s employees worldwide. With
the help of a Web-based platform, thousands of
employees are being activated for a relatively short
period of a few days to develop broad solutions for
a specific problem. IBM was so successful with
this solution internally that the company now sells
the “Jam” idea as a consulting service to other
companies (see the profile of IBM in the appendix).
Platforms for transferring ideas: In order to sup-
port interaction between organizers and partici-
pants as well as among groups of participants,
id e a con t ests a re mo s tly i n ter n et-b ased t oday.
They offer an “open channel” into the company.
Some of these platforms resemble simple, virtu-
al “pin boards”, on which users can merely post
their contributions. Others permit a higher degree
of interaction by providing other functions like:
ment scale, and prizes are awarded. In the con-
text of open innovation, idea contests can serve
to integrate customers or users into the early pha-
ses of the innovation process (idea generation).
The idea of a contest is to stimulate creativity and
the quality of submissions, while providing an addi-
tional incentive to participate through competition.
Idea contests come in many forms (Ernst 2004),
ranging from continually open platform addressing
a general question (“send us 1,000 ideas how to
improve our products”) to focused tasks like finding
solutions to specific technological problems. Idea
competitions resemble open calls for cooperation
in its purest form. They seek to receive input from
actors a company does not know. Although idea con-
tests are highly popular, there is not much systema-
describe the components making up an idea contest.
Contest organizers: Every innovation contest has
an organizer who formulates the problem, lays down
the rules for participation, usually collects the con-
tributions, evaluates them, and then chooses the
winner. Innovations, however, are a part of all areas
of life, which is why idea contests are announced
not only by private enterprise companies and private
individuals, but also by non-profit organizations and
public institutions. For example, Germany’s Federal
Center for Health Education seeks innovative ideas
for illustrations for a HIV prevention campaign. The
Technische Universität in Munich (TUM) organizes
an ongoing idea contest called “Academicus”, which
looks for creative contributions on improving studies
and the learning environment. In the meantime,
some companies have specialized in acting as an
intermediary by organizing idea contests for other
organizations. Some good examples include the
companies Hyve AG or Idea Crossing (see profi-
les of Hyve and Idea Crossing in the appendix).
Focus, breadth, and target groups of posed pro-
blems: Idea contests differ from one another in their
breadth and width. A competition with very wide
focus is Dell’s Idea Storm. The company broadly
asks its customers for all possible improvements
and suggestions. In general, idea competitions can
span from a broad tapping of need information to
dedicated collection of innovative procedures up to
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey24
of company innovation, researchers recommend
that jury members be real experts, who distinguish
themselves through close proximity to the topic. In
tests with inexperienced jurors, or performers mutu-
ally assessing creative achievements themselves,
the rules for quality were regularly not fulfilled.
Depending upon the task, at least three to a maxi-
mum of ten people should belong to the expert jury.
A big challenge for research at this point is the task
of developing scalable methods for assessment. Alt-
hough there are a large number of methods available
for the assessment of innovative ideas, these are
all based upon cooperation with an expert commit-
tee, which evaluates ideas through an assessment
commission. This form of evaluation may still work in
assessing up to 100 ideas, however, not for asses-
sing ideas numbering in the thousands. Assessment
methods for large quantities of ideas are still not
available, which opens an exciting field of research.
In reference to assessment categories, Amabile
from the perspective of creativity falls too short
of its goal. In order to show the different facets
of creativi ty, adequate constr uc ts sh ou ld at leas t
evaluate the categories of novelty, appropriate-
ness, and realization. In addition, the supervisor
is free to add complementary assessment catego-
ries corresponding to the creative task. An assess-
ment system (scoring model), in which for every
assessment category a specific number of points is
awarded, can help selecting the best idea. The win-
ning idea would be identified by a high total score.
Rewarding ideas: Basically, the incentive to parti-
cipate in an idea contest lies in receiving an award.
Awards can be material or monetary. In other cases,
only the winner’s names are publicized, hence using
reputation and peer-recognition as the sole form
of award. In the idea contest sponsored yearly by
the ski manufacturer Salomon, the participant, who
sends in the most creative proposal for a snowboard,
receives a cash prize amounting to one thousand
Euros and a professional snowboard (artworkcon- The amount of this cash prize seems quite
low, especially if one looks at the premiums offered
on Innocentive, a company that specializes in idea
contests (see profile of Innocentive in the appendix).
• The possibility for users to take up on the
ideas of others and to develop them further.
• The possibility for users to evaluate ideas and
to comment on them.
• The provision of suggestions, creative problem-
solving techniques or background information
to s ti mu la te brainstorming and to steer users
specifically in the direction of the problem.
• The provision of solution tools like, for examp-
le, drawing software or libraries with which
users can transfer their ideas purposefully.
• The integration of the platform with the
firm’s internal idea management software.
Time period: Idea contests usually set a period
of time in which the participants’ efforts must be
accomplished. The time period varies according to
the task at hand. In this way, the time for working
out an idea can be reduced to only a few minu-
tes down to even seconds like, for example, in
contests testing spontaneous creativity (drawing,
painting, composing verse, making music, rap-
ping, etc.). H er e, the user h as to perform d ir ec tly
after the task has been described. In company
innovation departments as well as in science and
architecture competitions, processing times from
several weeks up to several months are common.
Assessment committees and evaluation me-
thods: After ideas or solutions have been submitted,
they have to be screened, evaluated, and ranked.
No matter how popular idea contests in practice
are, filling the seats of the assessment committee
often occurs unsystematically and arbitrarily. The
choice and use of suitable evaluation methods suffer
under these conditions as well. A number of reliable
methods exists for assessment in the creative arts,
in which particulars like the jury’s size and com-
position and categories for assessment are listed.
The “Consensual Assessment Technique” (CAT) is
a practical method based upon the subjective judg-
ments of experts, which was tested and developed
three decades, CAT has been steadily developed
further (Walcher 2007). The assessment’s quality
is de termi ned by the num ber of jury me mbers in
agreement. Based upon a large number of studies
in which creative achievements were evaluated in
artistic and linguistic areas as well as in the context
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 25
Open innovation describes new forms of collaboration between a rm and various external
actors (customers, users, experts etc.). It builds on different methodological approaches
(lead user method, idea contests, toolkits etc.) to integrate those external parties.
The methods can be distinguished by the type of information they generate (need vs.
solution information), the type of actor they integrate (experts vs. non-experts), and by the
degree of control a company has over the knowledge acquisition and integration process
(high company involvement vs. low involvement).
Box 2: Core principles of open innovation
Innocentive’s idea is basically providing an Internet-
based platform on which companies announce their
innovation problems to the public, or to specified
scientists, which are to be completed within a cer-
tain period of time. Innocentive, as an intermedi-
ary, takes over all coordination and management
tasks. The solutions are evaluated and rewarded
by the seeker company, whereas cash prizes of up
to USD 100,000 are paid out (
Defining the right kind of incentive and its value is
a field that has not yet been discussed in larger
detail in either the practice of open innovation or in
scholarly research. We predict, however, that with
the growing popularity of innovation contests the
choice of the right award will become a core success
factor. While in the early ages of open innovation
consumers may have been motivated by a t-shirt and
the sheer opportunity to get into contact with a com-
pany, today there has to be the promise of a “fair”
and “valuable” award to trigger participation. We
urge managers considering an innovation contest to
thoughtfully plan and discuss the appropriate award.
Identifying innovative users: In addition to coll-
ecting creative contributions, contests also are a
method for identifying innovative customers (lead
users). Basically, a two sided selection process
takes place in an idea contest. First, customers
taking part in the competition differ from customers
who do not take part in their decision to partici-
pate (self-selection). Second, a selection occurs
ba sed u pon the r esu lts o f th e ev alua tio n of t he
contributions by the evaluation body (performance
selection). Walcher (2007) proves in his research
on idea contests conducted in the area of sports
that participants differ from non-participants the
same way that innovative customers differ from
less innovative customers. In his study, appro-
ximately ten percent of the contributions sent-in
were evaluated by the jury as completely new (ra-
dical) ideas. The originators of these highly inno-
vative contributions did not completely conform
to traditional views on lead user characteristics.
However, they proved to be especially creative.
Further measures for accessing customer innovation
potential include organizing innovation workshops
or building an internet-based developer community,
open exclusively only to these types of customers.
Unlike methods for identifying lead users in which
suitable people must be found through cost-inten-
sive measures and external selection even before
creative work begins, voluntary self-selection takes
place in idea contests, followed by selection through
jury of experts on the basis of the creative work
performed. There is also the advantage that the
selected customers already have brought evidence
of their creativity, whereas the selection of lead
users often rests on purely theoretical grounds.
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey26
3 Intermediaries in the innovation process
Note: This chapter will shed some light on the
origin and development of intermediaries and
brokers in the innovation process. We will ana-
lyze their evolution and roles and provide a clas-
sification of different functions and contributions
of intermediaries for the new product develop-
ment process. This chapter is rather conceptual.
If you are predominately interested in the study
results and the real landscape of open innovati-
on accelerators today, we recommend skipping
this chapter and jumping directly to Section 4.
Often, established organizations lack the experience
and knowle dge to a pply open innovat ion methods.
Thus, in the last decade a large number of entrepre-
neurs created firms focused on generating knowledge
by using open innovation methods. These compa-
nies serve as intermediaries in an open innovation
process. These intermediaries match the general
The term intermediary denotes different kinds of
agents performing a variety of tasks within the in-
novation process for their clients. A rich literature
describes and analyzes the role of intermediaries
as third parties mediating between suppliers and
customers. Called intermediary firms (Stankiewicz
1995), bridgers (Bessant and Rush 1995; McEvily
and Zaheer 1999), brokers (Hargadon and Sutton
1997; Provan and Human 1999), information in-
termediaries (Popp 2000) or superstructure orga-
are associated with a great range of functions.
3.1 Evolution and notion of
The role of an intermediary for innovation and
technology development was already performed
by the so called ‘middlemen’ in agriculture, wool,
century. These ‘middlemen’ were important infor-
mal disseminators of knowledge for technological
intermediary firms were utilized beyond sheer infor-
mation brokering and included strategies regarding
technology, manufacturability and managing the
development time. Since the mid 1990s, the inter-
mediary role included collaborations in R&D, the
development of new business models, and monito-
ring R&D phases of innovation (Lopez-Vega 2009).
The literature has investigated the development of in-
termediaries from diverse perspectives. The objecti-
ve was to get a clear picture of their role and function
as mediators in the innovation process. As shown in
Figure 4, four major fields of research can be identi-
Focusing on diffusion and technology trans-
fer, the intermediary firm is relevant to an or-
ganization in terms of speed of diffusion and
new product uptake (Hägerstrand 1952; Ro-
ge r s19 6 2) a s wel l as n e got i ati o nan d con -
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 27
• The literature on innovation management focu-
ses on activities of the intermediary and how to
integrate them into an organization‘s innovation
process. The main interest is on the role of inter-
mediaries as facilitators of the knowledge trans-
fer process between the actors taking part in the
innovation process (Hargadon and Sutton 1997).
Literature on systems and networks investigates
the influence of intermediaries with respect to
the entire innovation system. Intermediaries
are seen as linking and transforming relations
within the network or innovation system, sup-
porting the information flow (Lynn et al. 1995).
• A very own research aspect is analyzing i n-
termediaries in the context of service innova-
tion (Knowledge Intensive Business Service
– KIBS). The focus here is on the conti-
nuous interaction between the intermedia-
Across centuries and diverse fields of research, one
thing never has changed – knowledge as the tra-
ding good of an intermediary. Sufficient knowledge
management is required by any successful organi-
zation. It is mandatory for firms to identify, mobilize,
and apply knowledge for economic returns (Ste-
wart 1997; Eisenhardt and Martin 2000; Gupta and
Govin darajan 2000). Thus nearly any organization
has a sophisticated process for knowledge transfer.
The convergence of industries and markets ask for
more diverse sources of knowledge (Prahalad and
Ramaswamy 2004). Since knowledge management
gets more complex and cannot take place in a va-
cuum, a broad variety of agents join the knowledge
transfer process. These agents act as relatively au-
tonomous entities and perform intermediate tasks on
the behalf of their client organizations (Datta 2007).
The key role of the intermediaries is to connect,
transform, translate, and consequently support the
fragility of knowledge (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995).
From a network perspective, intermediaries con-
nect an actor with different sources of knowledge.
This is the essential activity of a mediating agent.
Collaborating with an intermediary can consequently
decrease the time for developing a new technology.
Searching for adequate knowledge for innovating is
time consuming for nearly any organization. Inter-
mediaries can provide a more efficient and effective
search, resulting from their position in the ‘middle’
– an intermediary interacts with many different sour-
ces (e.g. other organizations, universities, suppliers,
customers etc.). This, in turn, supports the formation
of a large knowledge pool including highly specia-
lized knowledge and translated ‘tacit knowledge’.
Interacting with an intermediary can hence increase
the likelihood to receive the required knowledge and
the chance to find and use the right channel of brin-
ging a technology to market (Chesbrough 2003a).
Figure 4: Evolution of Intermediaries
1600 1800 1900
‘Middlemen’ mediating
between manufacturers
Diffusion and technology transfer:
Technology diffusion, Technology exploitation
Innovation management: Transforming ideas and
System and networks:
Knowledge provider, Bridging institutions
Intermediary as service:
KIBS, Continuous collaboration
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey28
3.2 Roles and functions of
The brokering job of an intermediary is rather
complex. It requires the translation of informati-
on, coordination, and the alignment of different
perspectives. An intermediary has to hold enough
legitimacy to influence the development of tech-
nology. Thus, for an organization an intermediary
provides multiple value-added services (Datta 2007):
• The mediating position allows agents to create
a shared and stable syntax to ensure reliable
communication between sources and destina-
tions in knowledge management – they establish
a common language of reference as a template
for knowledge management activities (Shannon
and Weaver 1949).
• In order to achieve common interpretations, in-
termediaries align different styles of thinking and
incongruent understandings (Dougherty 1992).
• Intermediaries making the organization’s loca-
lized and embedded “knowledge stock” actiona-
multiple clusters of specialization and practice
to transform interpretations through innovation
and its diffusion.
Functions performed by innovation intermediaries
vary from facilitating technology transfer, techno-
logy diffusion, brokering information flows, and
measuring the value of knowledge as well as buil-
ding bridges, filling information gaps, or combining
existing technologies. This list is in line with the
wide range of roles and functions observed by
Bessant and Rush (1995). They regard intermedi-
aries as specialized in articulation and selection of
new technology options; scanning and locating of
sources of knowledge; building linkages between
external knowledge providers; development and im-
plementation of business and innovation strategies.
When combining all functions on a more general level,
two main roles of an intermediary can be extracted:
• Scanning and gathering information,
• Facilitating communication and knowledge ex-
Another aspect in which intermediaries seems to
differ is the focus of their service:
• Focus on the process stage: Mediating services
in a certain stage of the innovation process
(evaluation, validation, exploitation, adoption,
• Focus on the actor: Providing services for a
certain stakeholder group (SMEs, science net-
works, consumers).
The role of innovation intermediaries has been
changing recently especially with regard to their
function as a provider of information. By applying
new methods of search and brokerage, utilizing
new information and communication technology,
companies in many industries have been enabled
to perform intermediary functions like information
scanning and gathering on their own with high ef-
ficiency. At the same time, the increasing oppor-
tunities to network on a large scale, as facilitated
by social network technologies like LinkedIn or
Facebook, has strongly decreased the effort to
find new contacts or interesting new sources of
information. At the same time, however, these tech-
nologies have increased the number of possible
transaction partner tremendously. This makes it
difficult for companies to keep an overview over the
market. There is a growing need for intermediaries
fo r st ruct uri ng t he p ossi ble int era ctio ns a nd f or
creating more transparency. . Further, the inter-
mediary function of providing trust is especially of
importance because of the general trend of fewer
contacts in the physical environment. A future trend
can be seen that especially in markets with great
numbers of consumer and irregular purchases.
Here, the meaning of intermediaries will grow. Vice
versa, in markets with clear overview over partici-
pants, the importance of intermediaries will decline.
3.3 What to know about
The term ‘innovation intermediary refers to different
kinds of agents performing a variety of tasks within
the innovation process. Intermediaries are bridging
structural disconnected knowledge pools caused by
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 29
aries as external knowledge service providers can
supplement limited in-house capacity for product
innovation. Organizations also indirectly profit from
the interm ediaries’ economies of scale and scope.
Since knowledge acquisition and generation are
the intermediaries’ core competences, they offer
operational best practice that might be difficult and
time consuming to develop internally. Furthermore,
organizations have the option to benefit from the
intermediaries’ synergies they achieve by using their
network for different innovation problems. Besides
possible positive effects of an intermediary engage-
ment, the issue of trust is central for a successful
and beneficial cooperation between an organiza-
tion and an intermediary. The general tendency
towards fewer contacts in the physical environment
brought by new information and communication
technologies specifically elevates the importance of
the intermediary’s function in providing such trust.
Basically, for an organization planning to cooperate
with a mediating agency, it is necessary to know
its choice. Software-based intermediaries like all
kind of information processing software programs
(in comparison to human agents) can be easily
picked and applied by an organization. They do not
involve the constant coordination and contracting
with another party. Their advantage is that they
are able to embody complex functions. Software-
based intermediaries scan, collect, and structure
data into visual d epictions (e.g. cross t ab s, pi vo t
tables, plots etc.). They do not require the user to
learn the complex algorithms used in translation.
They deal with explicit knowledge which is rational.
Human intermediaries, on the contrary, transfer tacit
knowledge by communicating and interacting with
different parties. Regarding human-based interme-
diaries firms have to decide, based on their recent
situation, the point of time for collaboration and the
type of service the intermediary need to provide.
This type of mediator is further structured by three
major characteristics – environmental characteris-
tics (virtual vs. non-virtual), content specification of
traded knowledge (within vs. across industry), and
type of funding (private vs. public). The differen-
tiation results in six types of human agents. Four
types are the most common used ones: co-operative
technical organisations (e.g. technical committees,
task forces), knowledge intensive business service
the lack of diversity within a firm. Following Bessant
and Rush (1995), we define intermediaries as actors
specialized in the art iculation and sele ction of ne w
technology options; in scanning and locating of
sources of knowledge; in building linkages between
external knowledge providers; and in developing and
implementing business and innovation strategies.
Collaborating with intermediaries is an interes-
ting option especially for small and medium sized
enterprises. SMEs usually are limited in their
capacity to scan the entire breadth of available
knowledge and thus are restricted in filtering the
relevant information. Access to an intermediary
service has therefore the potential to compensa-
te that disadvantage because mediating agenci-
es possess a well connected network of different
knowledge sources. Intermediaries take over the
filtering job and select the required information.
But also for large enterprises those mediators can
provide value added service. Big companies often
have various stakeholder groups which differ in their
size and strength of ties to the company. For ex-
ample the group of users or consumers is broad and
heterogeneous. They are characterized by a rather
weak connection to the manufacturer, even though
they are an important group to integrate in the in-
novation process. Intermediaries running platforms
for consumers of certain products can strengthen
this loose connection. They are able to transfer user
generated content which is relevant to the company
for innovating. Thus, large enterprises take advan-
tage of the independent status of intermediaries to
receive precise and process relevant knowledge.
In the end, collaborating with an intermediary
can decrease the time and costs of developing
a new technology. Engaging the additional capa-
bilities in knowledge generation and acquisition
brought by intermediaries accelerates the new
product development process. Intermediaries
can provide a more efficient and effective search,
resulting from their position in the ‘middle’. For
companies, this can result in a quality improvement
of acquired new knowledge. They can access larger
talent pools with special intellectual properties and
wider experiences. Simultaneously, organizations
enhance their own innovative capacity. Intermedi-
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey30
permeable and benefit from different knowledge
sources (e.g. customers, suppliers, competitors,
the scientific system of university labs and re-
search institutions, and public authorities etc.).
Consequential we can observe the advent of a new
market for intermediaries. So far a systematically
overview of this market did not exist. Our objective is
to paint a clearer picture by surveying and analyzing
mediators guided by the following two main questions:
• What kind of methodological approach do the
intermediaries use to integrate external actors?
• What type of external actor do they integrate,or
subsequently, what kind of knowledge are they
Subject of research in this study are intermediaries
that offer different kinds of open innovation methods.
(e.g. consulting), innovation broker (e.g. public
funded institutes like Max Planck Institute for Phy-
sics), and virtual knowledge broker (e.g. consumer
ne t wor k s, co m mun i tie s , vir tual mark et pl aces ).
Figure 5 summarizes this classification of interme-
diaries. For our market study, the virtual knowledge
broker is of special interest. This class represents
a younger form of intermediaries. By utilizing new
ICT companies can expand their knowledge through
a better integration of external actors (Arora et al.
2002). This leads to the manifestation of the clas-
sical knowledge broker in a virtual environment
ful innovation is not solely performed internally
wi thin a fi rm , but coo perat ively with oth er ext er -
na l ac tor s, l eads to the d eve lop men t of var iou s
tools for integration. Therefore many virtual know-
ledge brokers focus on methods for helping com-
panies to design their organizational boundaries
Box 3: What are intermediaries in the innovation process?
Intermediaries are agents performing a variety of tasks within the innovation process for
their clients. They mainly connect an actor with different knowledge sources.
Intermediaries differ in their role (information scanning, gathering, communication and
exchange) and focus of their service (process stage and stakeholder group) in the
innovation process.
Figure 5: Classification of Intermediaries in the innovation process
Human based agents Software based agents
Communicate and interact
Trade explicit and tacit knowledge
Characterized by:
o Environment (virtual vs. non-virtual)
o Content specification of traded knowledge
(within vs. across industry)
o Type of funding (private vs. public)
Co-operative technical
Knowledge intensive
business service
knowledge broke
Content management system
Social software
Scan, collect, structure data into visual depiction
Trade explicit knowledge
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 31
4 The Open Innovation Accelerator
(OIA) Survey: Mapping the Landscape
of Intermediaries for Open Innovation
Nowadays a great variety of methods and tools
exists for integrating external actors in an open
innovation process. Many of these approaches
have been focused on the customer or user as a
source for collaboration and value creation (Prahald
and Ramaswamy 2004; von Hippel 2005). Today,
ho wever, we can also obser ve a f urthe r clas s o f
emerging internet-based tools which integrate dif-
ferent kinds of external actors. The objective of
this chapter is to provide an overview of all me-
thods available in the marketplace today and on
the intermediaries and service providers offering
these methods. For this purpose, we surveyed all
OIAs we were aware of at the time of our study. By
specializing and applying open innovation methods,
these intermediaries intend to accelerate the inno-
vation process. Hence, we coined the term ‘Open
Innovation Accelerator (OIA)’ to name this special
class of intermediaries in the innovation process.
In the following sections, we present the results
of our survey. We take a detailed look on the me-
tho d s , sect o r s, cos t , a nd proj e c t stru c t ures of
43 OIAs (appendix1 ). Our purpose is to deliver
a basis for strategic decision making while pl-
anning an open innovation venture. This market
study shall provide managers a first indication
• to identify the possible measures existing in
practice to collaborate for open innovation,
• to understand the market of companies of-
fering help with an open innovation process,
• to identify different approaches and time frames
when outsourcing parts of an open innovation
• to gain an overview of the actors available for
open innovation from a global perspective,
• and finally to address potential partners for
an open innovation project in a directed way.
1 The appendix also includes profiles of OIAs which
came to our awareness only after closing the sample of the survey.
Open Innovation Accelerators (OIA) are intermediaries that operate on the behalf of
companies seeking to innovate in cooperation with external actors from the periphery. OIAs
offer one or several methods of open innovation and, partly, supporting and complementary
services for the innovation process.
These methods (e.g. lead user, idea contest, toolkit etc.) are especially focused on the
integration of external actors. In consequence, OIAs facilitate a new form of collaboration
between an innovating company and its environment.
By doing so, OIAs accelerate a company’s internal innovation process.
Box 4: What are open innovation accelerators (OIA)?
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey32
4.1 Methodology:
The OIA Questionnaire
Our survey included two major steps. In a first step,
we used a written questionnaire to get basic informa-
tion about the OIA. After we received the response,
a telephone interview was scheduled to verify and
clarify answers and gather further information if ne-
cessary in a second step. By this procedure, we tried
to fully understand the working concept of each OIA.
The questionnaire consisted of five parts:
• A first part asked for information about the
company’s business model and the stage of
the innovation process they target.
• The second part asked for specific information
about their service offerings and the methods
to integrate the input of external actors in the
innovation process of their clients.
• The third part of the questionnaire was intended
to provide us information about the structure
and management of a typical client project.
• In the fourth part we focused on the external
actors and their integration in the process.
• The last part surveyed the market the OIA is
operating in and asked some additional ques-
tions on its business model.
All questions were either coded by pre-defined
answer sets or had free answer space. As most
of the OIA are rather small companies, the sur-
vey was addressed to the CEO, who often also
was the founder of the company. The follow-up
interview was conducted by one interviewer and
took between 30 and 240 minutes each, with a
all questions and answers the interviewee had gi-
ven. Often the interviewee completed the answers
and explained their meaning, especially at tho-
se questions with a free answer space. Data was
coll ec ted b etween October 2007 and June 2009.
4.2 Sample Composition
To identify OIAs for our sample, first of all we used
a (1) broad online research. An intermediary who
claimed to offer a method or service to support an
organization’s intention for open innovation was
selected as an Open Innovation Accelerator (OIA).
We decided for a very low threshold of being clas-
sified as an OIA, because getting a large variability
in the data set supported our objective of mapping
the open innovation landscape. We further applied
(2) a networking approach, asking key informants
to name companies helping others with “open in-
Once we identified a new OIA, we also asked its
managers for main competitors or complemen-
tors to identify further candidates for our study.
In addition we kept searching for new accelerators.
This allowed us to finally survey 47 OIAs. Of tho-
se, 24 intermediaries fully completed our survey
form. That equals a response rate of 51.1%. About
15 (31.9%) of them also joined (3) the follow up
interview. These response rates would have been
acceptable if we would already have a deeper un-
derstanding of our research topic. But due to its
explorative character, we needed to improve the
data quality. Therefore we started (4) a second
round of internet research and self-completed the
survey forms of the remaining 23 research objects
in our sample, based on the information they share
on the internet, whitepapers, company documen-
tations, company blogs, or public information like
press reports or research papers. Based on this
information we created profiles including key fi-
gures and a brief description of business for each
intermediary. For an additional evaluation of the
sa mple w e s ent ou t thos e (5) p rofil es for co nfi r-
ming the correctness of company presentation.
profiles. By the end of our search period in June
2009, we had a list of 43 selected OIAs (Table 1).
A detailed description of all 43 OIAs can be found in the Appendix.
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 33
A detailed description of all 43 OIAs can be found in the Appendix.
Table 1: OIAs surveyed for this study
No. Open Innovation Accelerator Homepage
199 Designs
2Big Idea Group*
3Brain Reactions* /
5Brainstorm Exchange*
10 Elance*
11 Elephant Design*
12 Elephant Design + Strategy
13 Favela Fabric*
14 Fellow Force*
15 Fronteer*
16 Future Lab Consulting
17 Gen 3 Partners
18 Guru
19 Hype*
20 Hyve*
21 IBM*
22 Idea Crossing*
23 Idea Connection*
24 Ideas To Go*
25 Idea Tango*
26 Ideawicket*
27 InnoCentive*
28 Innovation Framework* / innovation-
29 Invention Machine*
30 Kluster*
31 LEAD Innovation Management
32 NineSigma*
33 Openad
34 Redesign Me
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey34
No. Open Innovation Accelerator Homepage
35 Rent-a-coder / Top Coder*
36 Sitepoint
37 Spigit*
38 Venture2*
39 Verhaert
40 VOdA*
41 Wilogo
43 Your Encore*
Note: OIAs marked with an asterisk (*) participated in the survey, the follow-up interview, and profile check. For the remaining OIAs, information
was collected from the internet, the company's websites and press reports about their activity. However, no self-reported data could be used for
the analysis of all intermediaries not marked with an asterisk.
Basis for the analysis are 43 intermediaries offering services in the eld of open innovation.
That is why we call them Open Innovation Accelerators (OIAs).
OIAs were selected in a ve-step procedure, a combination of two internet research
phases, a survey, interviews and follow up assessment.
Box 5: Survey approach and data sample
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 35
4.3 Analysis: The structure
and market of
open innovation offerings
We find that most of the accelerators take ad-
vantage of a virtual environment and base their
work on online communities. Intermediaries in
the field of open innovation regard themselves
predominantly as contributors to the early pha-
ses of the innovation process (“Fuzzy frond end”,
FFE) by supporting the process of idea genera-
tion and idea evaluation. Their main driver is to
provide novel ways to integrate external sources
of information in their clients‘ innovation process.
To get a better picture of the OIA‘s positioning, we
asked them in which geographical market and in
which industrial s ector they are operating. F igure
sectors we find an almost equal distribution (ave-
rage 51.7%). It seems that there is not a specific
preference towards a certain industry. Thus, open
innovation should be applicable in a variety fields
and therefore probably useful for many different
innovation service in engineering. Usually this sec-
tor is known as more conservative in its choice of
innovation strategy. Not surprising are the results
for the sectors health / medicine, Fast-Moving-
Consumer-Goods, and (consumer) electronics.
vation method for supporting innovation in these
branches. From previous empirical research we
know that especially these industries bear a high
potential for successfully innovating with external
actors, especially with users and customers (Urban
Intermediaries with a specialization beyond the
nine pre-given categories could name it under
the option “others”. Among “others” we find open
innovation service activities in the field of aero-
spac e, adverti si ng & m arketin g, en ergy, finance ,
food & beverage, non-profit, and governance. Table
2 lists all OIAs and their industry specialization.
Figure 6: OIA market and industry focus
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey36
Table 2: OIA market and industry focus
Open Innovation Accelerator
Computer / IT
Medicine /
/ Chemical
99 Designs X
Big Idea Group* X X X X X X X X
Brain Reactions* X X X X X
Brainfloor* X X X X X X X X X X
Brainstorm Exchange* X X X X X X X X X X
Cassiber* X X X X X
Communispace* X X X X X X X X
Crowdspirit* X
Crowdspring* X
Elance* X X X X
Elephant Design* X X X X X X
Elephant Design + Strategy X X X X X X X
Favela Fabric* X X X X
Fellow Force* X X X X X X X X X
Fronteer* X X X X X
Future Lab Consulting Not specified
Gen 3 Partners X X X X X X
Guru X X X X
Hype* X X X X X X
Hyve* X X X X X X X
IBM* Not specified
Idea Crossing* X X X X X X X
Idea Connection* X X
Ideas To Go* X X X X X X X
Idea Tango* X X X
Ideawicket* X X X X X X X X X X
InnoCentive* X X X X X X X
Innovation Framework* X X X X
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 37
Open Innovation Accelerator
Computer / IT
Medicine /
/ Chemical
Invention Machine* X X X X X X X X
Kluster* X X X X
LEAD Innovation Management X X X X X X X X
NineSigma* X X X X X X X X
Openad X X X
Redesign Me X X
Rent-a-coder / Top Coder* X
Sitepoint Not specified
Spigit* X
Venture2* X X X
Verhaert X X X X X X
Wilogo X* X X X X X X X X X
Your Encore* X X X X X X X X X X
In a next step we look at the geographical dis-
tribution of OIA activity (Table 3). While being
“virtual” would allow the intermediaries to ope-
rate on nearly any geographical market, leading
continents for open innovation intermediaries are
es are located in the USA. The main represen-
tative countries in Europe are The Netherlands
(9.3%), Germany (9.3%), and Switzerland (4%).
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey38
Table 3: Geographical distribution of OIA activity
Open Innovation Accelerator
99 Designs Australia X X X X X X X
Big Idea Group* USA X X X
Brain Reactions* USA X
Brainfloor* Austria X
Brainstorm Exchange* USA X X X X X
Cassiber* Switzerland X
Communispace* USA X X
Crowdspirit* France X X X
Crowdspring* USA
Elance* USA X X X X X X X
Elephant Design* Japan
Elephant Design +
Favela Fabric*
Fellow Force*
Netherlands X X X X X X X
Future Lab Consulting Germany
Gen 3 Partners USA
Guru USA X X X X
Hype* Germany X X X X
Hyve* Germany X
IBM* Switzerland
Idea Crossing* USA X X
Idea Connection* Canada X X
Ideas To Go* USA X X
Idea Tango* USA X
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 39
Open Innovation Accelerator
Ideawicket* India X
InnoCentive* USA X X X X X X X
Innovation Framework* USA X X X
Invention Machine* USA X X X X
Kluster* USA
LEAD Innovation
Austria X
NineSigma* USA X X X
Openad Switzerland X X X X X
Redesign Me
Rent-a-coder / Top Coder* USA X X X X
Sitepoint Australia
Spigit* USA X X X X
Venture2* USA X X X
Verhaert Belgium
VOdA* Germany X
Wilogo France X X X X X X X* USA X X X
Your Encore* USA X X X
Box 6: Markets of OIAs’ projects
We nd that OIAs operate globally due to the virtual characteristic of the business. The
broad distribution of open innovation application over industry sectors demonstrates that
this approach is not limited to certain branches or sectors. However, most recent projects
were targeted to the B-to-C market. OIAs focus their service on both B-to-B and B-to-C
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey40
Development of the intermediary market:
An interesting data point is the age of the accelera-
tor and their size (in employees), expressing their
cumulative experience. Most of the participating
inte rmediarie s a re ra th er young firms (Figu re 7) .
Remarkable is the increase in emergence of new
intermediaries in the past ten years. More than
the year 2000. Only three companies have already
wo rked in thi s spec ific fie ld of inn ovati on befor e
the 1990ies (Verhaert,1969;Ideas To Go, 1979;
Elephant Design + Strategy, 198 9) .But wit ht he
growing attention of the open innovation pheno-
mena, and the growing demand for OI services by
compani es in all branc hes o f ind ustries, new OIAs
were founded, often arising as a spin-off from an
existing practice within a company or consultancy.
But also a number of startups from university
graduates learning about open innovation ente-
red the market. During the phase of our research
(2007–09), thirteen new intermediaries with spe-
cialization on open innovation had emerged.
At this point it shall be mentioned that some of the
intermediaries already dropped out during the time
of our survey due to changes in their business. The
OIA market is characterized by fast development
and is still far away from being stable. Given the
upcoming nature of the field and the young age of
the average OIA, our data allows not drawing a con-
crete picture of the market size and volume of open
innovation. But we find strong growth and plenty
of countries in this field. The future of the market
for intermediaries for open innovation is promising.
Box 7: OIA size and market
We nd that the OIA business is rather young. More than 80% of the agencies have
been founded in 2000 or later. In addition we observe a fast development in that market.
The entire market is far away from being consolidated. Therefore it is not possible to
make precise statements about market size or volume. But the future trend seems to be
Figure 7: Cumulative increase of OIAs in the past decades
1969 1979 1992 1997 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Founding Ye ar
cumulative # OIAs
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 41
4.3.1 Methods offered for the open innovation
Operating stage of the innovation process:
Since open innovation is a strategy which can be
followed at various points in the innovation process,
we asked the accelerators which stage they mainly
address with their services. An innovation project
broadly follows three stages: (1) Fuzzy Front End
(FFE), (2) New Product Development (NPD), and
the FFE is an evaluated set of ideas and a product
concept. The FFE builds the foundation for further
activities and decisions of the new product develop-
ment stage. The main focus during the NPD phase
is technical problem solving, prototype building and
testing. In the phase of commercialization, tasks
regarding the market launch are predominant. In our
a third (33.3%) operate in the stages of commer-
cialization. The predominance of activities during
the FFE is not such a big surprise. Many of the me-
thods applied involve some kind of idea generation.
Some OIAs are operating in more than one stage of
the innovation process. We find 14 (33.3%) interme-
diaries that act in all three basic stages (Table 4).
For example, Hyve AG is a typical representative of
the “all-round” OIA. They offer six different methods
41%) operate in two stages of the innovation pro-
cess. Usually the OIAs combine activities in the FFE
and in NPD. They support the generation and evalu-
ation of ideas, and advance them to more elaborate
concept s. Only ei ght i ntermediari es (20.5%) focus
on a single stage either FFE or NPD. Intermediaries
that act in the FFE are mainly brainstorming plat-
forms. Users visiting these websites submit ideas
regarding a certain posted question (99 Designs,
Brainfloor, Crowdspring, IBM etc.). In contrary, in-
termediaries being involved in the NPD rather ask
external actors to submit an elaborate idea concept
or information about a prototype (e.g. NineSig-
ma), responding on a detailed technical question.
Figure 8: Stages of the innovation process
Open Innovation
Lim itation of the solution space
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey42
Table 4: Focus of OIAs on different stages of the innovation process
Open Innovation
Big Idea Group* X X X Brainstorm
X X 99 Designs X
X X X Elance* X X Brainfloor* X
Cassiber* X X X Elephant
Design +
X X Crowdspring
Communispace* X X X Guru X X IBM* X
X X X Hype* X X Rent-a-coder
/ Top Coder*
Favela Fabric* X X X Idea Crossing* X X Wilogo X
Fellow Force* X X X Idea
X X Openad X
Ideas To Go* X X X Idea Tango* X X
Ideawicket* X X X InnoCentive* X X Fronteer* Not specified
Future Lab
X X X Invention
X X Gen 3
Not specified
Hyve* X X X Kluster* X X Sitepoint Not specified
NineSigma X X X LEAD
X X Verhaert Not specified
VOdA X X X Redesign Me X X Venture2* Not specified
Your Encore X X X Spigit* X X* Not specified
Crowdspirit* X X
Box 8: OIAs and the stages of the innovation process they operate in
We nd that most of the intermediaries (41%) operate in the rst stage of an innovation
process, the FFE (idea generation, idea evaluation), and the second stage, NPD (concept
development, prototyping).
Accelerators which also specialize in the activities of the later stages like prototyping and
commercialization (product / market test or launch) are usually consultancies (e.g., Future
Lab Consulting, Hyve, VOdA, or Big Idea Group). These accelerators promise to support
almost an entire client’s innovation project starting with dening the innovation objective to
the point of market test or even launch.
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 43
Ser v i c e s a nd metho d s t o a c c elera t e t h e o p e n
innovation process:
In this section, we classify the intermediaries by
their type of service and methods they offered. To
start, we analyzed self-reports of the intermedia-
ries regarding the characterization of the nature
of their business. We asked the participants to
eval uate the e xtent of their busin es s a s an ope n
innovation consultancy on a 5-Point-Likert-Scale
(“do not agree at all” – “do totally agree”). About half
(50%) of the 24 answers indicate a self-perception
as intermediaries offering a service to support an
entire open innovation project. But interestingly the
other half of the answering intermediaries “rather
does not agree” that their service involves a highly
customized creation process. Indeed, many inter-
mediaries offer rather standardized approaches.
Looking at the general service approach (which also
can be seen as the business model of an OIA), we
distinguish between three major types of activities.
These three types of activities distinguish the major
focus of the OIA‘s activities (remember that these
categories are our interpretation and do not always
match to the self reported assessment of the firms):
• (1) Community Managers: Managing a (online)
community that is used as a source for problem
solving and idea generation, but also to gene-
rate innovative problems. In our questionnaire,
we provided the respondents with our definition
of the term “community”. In our understanding,
a community is a group that interacts via the
internet and is therefore not defined by physical
boundaries but the interests of its members.
• (2) Software Providers: Providing dedicated
software for open in no vation, often in form of
a web-service.
• (3) Consultants: Acting as an open innovation
consultant to provide a customized and integ-
rated service in the client‘s innovation process.
Applying this classification, all OIAs are assigned to
one type by looking at their core offering (Table 5).
We only assigned those OIAs into the group “com-
munity managers” who are exclusively operating
virtually and who are providing an own community.
The software providers offer IT solutions to acqui-
re and analyze information from different sources
within and outside of the client’s company. We find
six (14%) of those accelerators. Consultants focus
on supporting an innovation project by their exper-
tise in the field of open innovation. Some of them
are design offices using a special methodological
approach for user design (e.g. Elephant Design
or Hyve).Alsohere,weidentify25(58.1%)firms.
A more detailed analysis reveals that many OIAs
pursue a dual strategy. We find preferred combi-
nations between: (a) community and consultancy,
(b) community and software, and (c) software and
consultancy approach (Table 5). These rather ob-
vious arrangements come from the fact that many
service offer s comple me nt each other. E.g., OIAs
selling software for collaboration accompany their
implementation with a training etc (software and
consultancy). Intermediaries hosting a community
help their customers with the set up, execution
and evaluation of a project (community and con-
cases. The two business strategies involving soft-
ware compose together 11.7%. Figure 9 shows
that a community approach or a combination of
community and consultancy approach make up
the largest proportion (together 79%) of all busi-
ne ss str ate gie s. This c las s a lso rep resen ts n ew
type of intermediaries in the innovation process.
They operate in a virtual environment and have the
option to integrate every potential external actor.
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey44
Table 5: Types of open innovation approaches
Open Innovation Accelerator
Managing a
Community /
Community /
Software /
Idea Crossing* X X X X X X
Fellow Force* X X X
Hype* X X X
Invention Machine* X X X
Big Idea Group* X X X
Brain Reactions* X X X
Communispace* X X X
Elephant Design* X X X
Fronteer* X X X
Future Lab Consulting X X X
Gen 3 Partners X X X
Favela Fabric* X X X
Hyve* X X X
Ideas To Go* X X X
Idea Tango* X X X
Innovation Framework* X X X
NineSigma* X X X
Redesign Me X X X
Venture2* X X X
VOdA* X X X* X X X
Your Encore* X X X
99 Designs X
Brainfloor* X
Brainstorm Exchange* X
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 45
Open Innovation Accelerator
Managing a
Community /
Community /
Software /
Crowdspirit* X
Crowdspring* X
Elance* X
Guru X
Idea Connection* X
Ideawicket* X
InnoCentive* X
Kluster* X
Openad X
Rent-a-coder / Top Coder* X
Sitepoint X
Wilogo X
Cassiber* X
Spigit* X
Elephant Design + Strategy X
LEAD Innovation
Verhaert X
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey46
Figure 9: Type of service approach
After classifying the accelerators by their type
of service approach, we were interested into the
range of methods offered (as described in Sec-
tion 2). Thus, the accelerators chose between the
lead user method and lead user workshops (called
“workshops” in the following); innovation contests
and platforms for “broadcast search” (“competi-
tion” in the following); and toolkits for open in-
novation (“toollkits” in the following). In addition,
the OIAs could name further methodological ap-
proaches not listed before. By reviewing the open
answers, we could find an additional class of OI
methods: (4) virtual market places. Operators of
virtual market places use the internet to connect
providers and seekers of technologies or skills.
Within the categories (1) workshop and (2) competiti-
on, we can distinguish between different methodologi-
cal approaches which allow a more accurate analysis.
Among workshops, OIAs vary in their type:
• (1a) creativity workshops for generating more
elaborate ideas,
• (1b) brainstorming sessions to create a pool of
possible ideas, and
• (1c) lead user workshops which lead to a few
idea concepts or prototypes.
Similarly, competitions can be structured into:
• (2a) idea competitions or
• (2b) solution seeking which focuses on asking
for a solution to a very specific, mostly tech-
nical problem.
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 47
Table 6: Methodological approaches of OIAs and tools to accomplish open innovation
Workshops Competitions
Open Innovation
lead user
idea contest
solution seeking
Toolkit Virtual
market place
Hyve* XX X XX X X
Idea Tango* XX X XXX
Redesign Me X X XXX
Your Encore* XX X X XX X X
Big Idea Group* X X XX
Brain Reactions* X X XX
Brainfloor* X X XX
Fellow Force* XX X XX
Future Lab
Hype* X XX
Ideas To Go* XX X XX
InnoCentive* X X X
Verhaert X X X
Elephant Design +
Fronteer* XX X X
Invention Machine* X X
Venture2* X X
Cassiber* X
Idea Connection* XXX
Spigit* XX X X* X X X
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey48
Workshops Competitions
Open Innovation
lead user
idea contest
solution seeking
Toolkit Virtual
market place
Favela Fabric* X X
Gen 3 Partners X
LEAD Innovation
99 Designs XX
Crowdspirit* XX X
Crowdspring* XX
Idea Crossing* XX
Ideawicket* X X
Kluster* X X
NineSigma* X X
Openad XX
Rent-a-coder / Top
Sitepoint XX X
Wilogo XX
Elance* X
Guru X
Elephant Design* Not specified
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 49
Figure 10 shows the distribution of these diverse
open innovation techniques in our sample. We find
that nearly half of all OIAs (42%) set up a form of
competition. Conducting workshops follows with
33%. Toolkits for user innovation (20%) and virtual
market places (5%) are offered less frequently.
idea contests to generate broad information about
potential future trends and needs of users. A pri-
vate or public entity organizes an idea contest to
integrate customers or users to submit their con-
tributions within a certain period of time. Submis-
sions are evaluated with help of an assessment
scale, and competitive prizes are awarded. About
half of the OIAs (54%) foc us on searching for spe-
cific solutions. Solution seeking is a methodical
approach to find an answer for a problem con-
cerning how to apply a technology to transform
customer needs into new products and services.
In the workshop category, the preferred method is
to conduct simple brainstorming (50%). We define
brainstorming as a creativity technique designed
to generate a large number of ideas for the solu-
tion of a problem through the maximum “quantity
breeds quali ty”. A brainstormin g wor kshop intends
to collect many ideas regarding a certain question
/ topic from various participants. This can either
take place in a physical or virtual environment. This
workshop type can either take place in a physical
or virtual environment. On the contrary, creativity
workshops are applied to generate more elabora-
ted ideas and concepts than brainstorming work-
shops. The outcome of a creativity workshop is
usually a few well defined idea concepts. In about
more elaborate idea generation and evaluation
process by running creativity workshops. 27%
OIAs are specialized on running lead user work-
shops. During such a workshop product ideas are
generated and concepts are developed. Since lead
users are experts in a given field the workshop
intends to develop product concepts regarding
a very specific (mostly technological) problem.
Figure 10: Methods to accelerate the open innovation process
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey50
Some OIAs (e.g. Hype) also offer workshops in form
of seminars or training sessions (but these are no
specific methods of open innovation). These results
co rresp ond to the a nswer s o f t he int ermed iarie s
about the nature of their business, as reported
at the beginning of this chapter. Yet it should be
acknowledged that most of the OIAs use tools from
several categories to accomplish their services.
That is why we were interested in further detailed
analysis. We find that half of all OIAs (51.2%)
use only one service approach. However, in one
to offer a minimum of two different approaches
(e.g. Brain Reactions, Big Idea Group, Fronteer,
Hy pe, Innocentive etc. ). S til l 12. 2% a re a ble t o
offer choice between three ways to perform open
innovation (e.g. Hyve, Idea Tango, VOdA, You r
We find a better picture of the different business
models of OIAs when combining the type of ser-
vice approach with the methods offered. There
combine the community approach and the method
idea contest, and 42% are focused on technical
solution seeking. Most of the accelerators have a
platform for bringing different user groups together.
Those OIAs can be distinguished further by the
type of community they host. We will address this
aspect in the next section. Four companies (Crowd-
spirit, H yve, Kluster, and Your Encore) are able
to offer both types of competition to their clients.
The category of intermediaries that mainly pro-
vide software for open innovation has only four
accelerators that perform idea contests – Fellow
Force, Hype, Idea Crossing and Spigit. Their soft-
ware package helps their clients to organize and
run idea competitions on their own, based on so-
cial software solutions which facilitates proces-
sing information from different sources. Spigit is
the only software provider who reported that any
kind of further tools (configuration tools, possibi-
lity for virtual concept testing etc.) are available.
Analyzing the group of consultancies we find that
nearly 45% apply workshops (Table 9; Table 10).
32% of the workshops are lead user workshops.
We find six OIAs offering that method: Fronteer,
Hyve, LEAD Innovation Management, Redesign
Me, VOdA, and Your Encore. Almost half of all open
innovation consultancies (47.4%) run brainstorming
workshops. 37% focus on creativity workshops.
Characteristically for consultancies is that they
usually offer several workshop types. The excep-
tion in our sample is IBM. Yet it should be noted
that acting as an open innovation intermediary is
not IBM`s core business. Other accelerators again
regard workshops which are not categorized as a
service completion. Future Lab Consulting teaches
seminars about innovation strategy and open in-
novation. Venture2 organizes matching events to
bring people together in the field of open innovation.
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 51
Table 7: Service approach and idea contest as a kind of competition offered
OI method: Competition Managing a community Providing software
Idea contest Big Idea Group
Brain Reactions
Fellow Force
Idea Crossing
Idea Connection
Ideas To Go
Idea Tango
Innovation Framework
Redesign Me
Your Encore
Fellow Force
Idea Crossing
Table 8: Service approach and solution seeking as a kind of competition offered
OI method: Competition Managing a community Providing software
Solution seeking Crowdspirit
Your Encore
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey52
Table 9: Service approach and kind of workshop offered
OI method: Workshop
Managing a community Providing software Open innovation consultant
General / no
Future Lab Consulting
Invention Machine
Elephant Design + Strategy
Future Lab Consulting
Invention Machine
Creativity Fellow Force
Ideas To Go
Idea Tango
Your Encore
Fellow Force
Ideas To Go
Idea Tango
LEAD Innovation Mgmt.
Your Encore
Table 10: Service approach and kind of workshop offered
OI method: Workshop
Managing a community Providing software Open innovation consultant
Brainstorming Big Idea Group
Brain Reactions
Brainstorm Exchange
Favela Fabric
Fellow Force
Ideas To Go
Idea Tango
Your Encore
Fellow Force
Big Idea Group
Brain Reactions
Favela Fabric
Ideas To Go
Idea Tango
LEAD Innovation Mgmt.
Your Encore
Lead User
Method Fronteer
Redesign Me
Your Encore
LEAD Innovation Mgmt.
Redesign Me
Your Encore
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 53
About a quarter of all OIAs also offer toolkits for
innovation (23.4%). E.g. Hyve uses configuration
tools as an approach to identify latent consumer
needs. Additional interviews identified this interme-
diary as a specialist in the field of open innovation
with customers and users. By using different kinds
of toolkits, accelerators like Cassiber, Fronteer,
Hyve, Idea Connection, Innovation Machine, Re -
design Me, VO dA etc. (Table 11) support creativity
and the possibility to exactly present ideas, con-
cepts, solutions etc. This helps us to overcome
the sticky information problem and increases the
efficiency of the innovation process (von Hippel
and Katz 2002). Especially very tacit need infor-
ma tion c an bec ome vi sib le by a pplyi ng t ools f or
configuration or by performing a virtual concept
testing. Furthermore, sophisticated user toolkits
can help to transfer solution information and there-
fore support problem solving (von Hippel 2005).
Consider Redesign Me, an independent platform
for continuous co-creation between an organiza-
tion and its users. It offers a virtual design tool
which assists users to develop ideas and con-
cepts for improving already existing products.
7% of the OIAs also offer a virtual market place
(Elance, Guru, and to trade special know-
ledge. These accelerators solely differ in the kind of
traded knowledge. Guru and Elance work similar to
a platform for job exchanges. Companies searching
for a special expertise can list their request on
Guru or Elance. The companies then broadcast
these request among their community members., in comparison, forms a pool of diffe-
rent technologies. Using broadcasting and active
search, the company then seeks potential parties
who could use the technology, matching the interests
of buyers and sellers of IP and technology solutions.
Table 11: Service approach and toolkit / virtual market place offered
Managing a community Providing software Open innovation consultant
OI method: Toolkit Fronteer
Idea Connection
Idea Tango
Innovation Framework
Redesign Me
Your Encore
Invention Machine
Elephant Design + Strategy
Idea Tango
Innovation Framework
Invention Machine
Redesign Me
Your Encore
OI method:
Virtual market place
Box 9: Kinds of open innovation approaches OIAs offer
We distinguish three main service approaches for open innovation managing communities,
providing special (social) software, or operating as an open innovation consulting agency.
The community approach is the predominant service offered among all surveyed OIAs
(84%). Yet we nd combinations. In 37% of the cases the accelerators tend to offer a
minimum two different approaches. About 44% of the surveyed OIAs are mainly consultants
and community managers. 43% of all OIAs run competitions (mostly idea contests).
Nearly 34% of the accelerators apply workshops (mostly brainstorming), often of different
workshop types. Most of the OIAs offer tools and methods from several categories to
accomplish their services.
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey54
OIA community and characteristics of integrated
external actors:
Community characterization: We already assumed
prior to our survey that most of the open innovation
intermediaries will make use of the crowd by apply-
ing new information and communication tools. Thus,
we asked questions to get a more detailed picture of
what working with and in an innovation community
means. Remember that in the understanding of our
questionnaire, a community is a group that primarily
or initially communicates or interacts via internet.
The community is not defined by physical boundari-
es but the interest of its members who are seen as
problem solver. Different kinds of communities exist
depending on what they are aiming for. Originally,
we distinguished the following types of communities:
• A collaborative platform is a web space where
user can collaborate, work independently, or
share information to achieve project goals.
• A discussion forum is defined as a web appli-
cation for holding discussions and / or posting
user generated content.
• A panel on the other side is a group of people
gathered to judge, interview, and discuss etc.
a distinct topic.
pursuing a community approach (Table 12). One
third of the OIAs (33.3%) answered to apply a kind of
discussion forum to generate content, whereas the
a high degree of interaction between the external
actors by providing a collaborative platform. Here,
people can collaborate, work independently, or trade
information. These collaborative platforms go along
with a broad discussion of the phenomenon of crowd-
These terms address a new form of collabora-
ti on t hat i s ch ara cte rist ic f or o ur u nde rsta ndi ng
of open innovation. Information and knowledge
from diverse groups is utilized by a combination
of broadcasting of search and utilizing aggregated
opinions from a larger group. Under certain condi-
tions, this can generate ideas or decisions which
are often better than those made by any single
ex per t me mbe r of the gro up ( Sur owi eck i 20 07) .
Intermediaries that provide such a space for mass
collaboration are said to be able to generate new
content and knowledge going beyond what is alrea-
dy been known in the group (as it is the task of a
common knowledge broker; Sawhney et al. 2003).
Furthermore, we find that the different types of
communities are not mutually exclusive but rather
complementary. Table 12 shows that eleven inter-
mediaries have more than one form of community
(marked with a + sign). A reason for that can be that
once a community is established, it can be utilized
for different purposes.
Access regulation and mechanisms to regulate
member activities: There are different ways to re-
gulate the access to an open innovation platform. In
general ,a ll36 list edOIAsmanagingcommu nities’
posses own virtual communities or have access to
ot hers. We analy zed th em whe ther t hey pr ovide
free access to their community or restrict access.
Surprisingly, we find a nearly balanced ratio of about
20:22 for communities with and without access
regulation (Figure 11). OIAs that put no restriction
on their access trust the mechanism of self-selec-
tion. E.g. virtual market places just attract peop-
le who can o ffer expert is e in the presented field . is a platform for trading technologies.
Elance is a virtual place for programmers. In six ca-
ses one, OIA offers both possibilities – restricted and
non-restricted access (Brain Reactions, Brainstorm
Exchange, Hyve, Ideawicket, Innovation Framework,
and Redesign Me). Here, clients can chose whether
they allow any potential user on a platform or not.
To get a better insight, we asked the participants
what kind of access regulation they apply. We
provided four options for answering: access
(a) by invitation only, (b) by expertise, (c) by
demography like age etc., and / or (d) by other
forms. From 13 intermediaries we have explicit
information about their access regulation (Table
13, m a r ked with an aste r i sk (*) ) . N ot incl u ded
are providers of social software because here an
organization can individually decide who can join the
community. Also excluded are consulting agencies
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 55
Table 12: Type of community applied by OIAs
Discussion Forum Panel Platform for collaboration
Idea Tango+
Innovation Framework+
Your Encore+
Big Idea Group
Ideas To Go
Idea Tango+
Innovation Framework+
Your Encore+
Favela Fabric
Idea Crossing
Idea Connection
Idea Tango+
Innovation Framework+
Redesign Me
OIAs marked with a (+) run several community types.
Access restricted by*:
Invitation only
Figure 11: Type of community access
that perform workshops with their own expert
community (e.g. LEAD Innovation Management).
Figure 11 shows that seven of these 13 accelerators
invite pre-selected audience to join their community.
Most of them are ideation or brainstorming platforms
where people generate new content regarding a
given problem. For example, Brainstorm Exchange
offers two options to run a brainstorm session. One
is completely open to everyone who is interested.
The invitational brainstorming instead addresses
only people that their client organization wants to
hire for a project. Three of the OIAs having access
restrictions are intermediaries that have built their
own expert community like Innocentive,,
or Ideawicket and therefore recruit external actors
based on their by expertise. Additionally we only find
one OIA (Innovation Framework) that pre-selects
members by demography like age etc. Among the
two OIAs answering the question with “others”,
the intermediaries mainly mentioned that their
clients determine the form of access regulation.
Objective and focus of community: The last in-
teresting aspect regarding collaborating with ex-
ternal actors is the question about the stability
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey56
of the community. Is the community fully custo-
mized for a client’s project, or does the OIA uti-
lize an established community for several tasks?
Most accelerators (91.7%) use some kind of own
established community. Among those we have
to differentiate between intermediaries that pos-
sess an own external or internal community.
Communispace i s a typical representat iv e for t he
latter category. This OIA is specialized on com-
munity building. They support organizations’ in-
novation processes by establishing a suitable ac-
cess to the organizations’ periphery. In average,
it takes Communispace 15 to 30 days to build an
ade q uat e c ommu n ity b y recr u itin g part i cipa n ts
from address panels, similar to recruiting mem-
bers for a large focus group. Table 14 shows what
type of community affiliation the OIAs work with.
tors offer a customized community. That means
they build a new community for every new project.
The client company can influence the structure
and member characteristic of that community.
Platforms like InnoCentive, NineSigma, o r Your
Encore usually posses their own community of ex-
perts. These companies match solution seekers
and problem solvers regarding a certain technical
innovation task. They have invested a long period of
time and effort into the selection and recruitment of
special experts joining their community. InnoCentive,
members. Your Encore focuses on retired experts
to capture and make further use of their know-how.
NineSigma’s community of different scientist was
carefully selected by following a network approach
and collaborating with research alliances etc. Ni-
neSigma continually builds upon this network after
every project to target individuals and organizations
with specified skills meeting their clients’ require-
ments. The OIAs that work with existing external
communities usually search for innovative ideas
and trends in the internet like Hyve or Venture2.
Structure of the community members: In order to
make a decision which type of community to select
for given innovation tasks, we analyzed the group of
external actors which can be integrated by such an
approach. Typical innovation partners are usually
universities, suppliers, competitors, or customers.
From previous research we know that depending
on the innovation task, organizations favor the co-
operation with different external partners (Knudsen
2007). We assume that the type of actor who is part
of the community influences the type of outcome
regarding the kind of information required (need vs.
solution information). In general we can distinguish
Table 13: Access regulation for the OIA community
Non-restricted a ccess Restricted access
99 Designs
Brain Reactions
Brainstorm Exchange
Elephant Design
Fellow Force
Idea Connection
Idea Tango
Innovation Framework
Redesign Me
Big Idea Group*
Brain Reactions
Brainstorm Exchange*
Favela Fabric****
Future Lab Consulting****
Gen 3 Partners
Idea Crossing*
Ideas To Go*
Innovation Framework***
Redesign Me
Your Encore*
* access by invitation; ** access by expertise; *** access by demography; **** ‘other’ restrictions
The Market for Open Innovation: The RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey 57
Table 14: Community affiliation
Build a customized community
every time new
Use an existing
own community
Use an existing
external community
Community Manager
Big Idea Group
Brainstorm Exchange
Idea Crossing
Idea Tango
Innovation Framework
Community Manager
Big Idea Group
Brain Reactions
Brainstorm Exchange
Idea Crossing
Ideas To Go
Your Encore
Community Manager
Innovation Framework
Software provider
Software provider
Invention Machine
between a group of novices and a group of experts.
The novice is the opposite of an expert. Both terms
are related to a specific knowledge domain. We
understand the novice as a typical layperson. Thus,
the novice has less special skills and expertise
in a field of interest. The likelihood for solving a
sophisticated technological problem is much lower
for a novice than for an expert. To get a better in-
sight into the group composition, we classified the
following types of external actors joining a com-
munity: recent customer, potential customer, non-
customer, student as novices and scientist or other
special skilled people like designers as experts etc.
of the OIAs integrate novices and 95.4% exp