In the months to come, we will be using this platform to share insights into the importance of users in sustainability-oriented innovation and entrepreneurship, and the various roles they can take on in the transition towards more sustainable lifestyles. We hope very much that you will share this link with colleagues and friends with similar interests in learning more about this dynamic, emerging field.
What is EU-InnovatE?
EU-InnovatE (http://www.euinnovate.com) stands for End User Integration, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In brief, it is an interdisciplinary, pan-European research project involving over 40 researchers from 14 leading research institutes, think tanks, and network partners under the scientific leadership of TUM School of Management (http://www.wi.tum.de/en/home/).
Since its launch in 2014, our consortium has conducted a wide range of advanced research activities, including, among others: case studies in many European countries; workshops with users, companies, and policy makers; scenarios for sustainable lifestyles in Europe by 2050; an agent-based model to measure the impacts of innovation in mobility, food, energy and urban living; and an online social media conference involving 350+ experts and pioneers in the field. All those efforts were taken to investigate the active roles that end users play in shaping sustainable lifestyles, new business models, and the transition to a greener economy in Europe.
From passive consumers to active users
To be able to create more sustainable lifestyles, sustainability innovations such as novel products, services, and systems that provide economic, social, and ecological value need to be developed. While previously consumers were viewed as passive receivers and adopters, there is an increasing understanding that consumers have great potential as active users to inspire, shape, and participate in the creation of novel, sustainable solutions.
For example, companies open up their innovation process, involving external actors such as scientists, suppliers, and end users into new product development (“open innovation”). Some end users take on creative and innovative roles by inventing products themselves (“user innovations”). Moreover, a number of empirical studies show that such user innovations, as opposed to producer innovations, play a significant role across different areas and industries. Some of those end users even take one step further and start to build their own business around their sustainable product or service (“user entrepreneurship”).
In our project, we focus on such active, innovative, and entrepreneurial roles of end users in developing products, services, and systems for more sustainable lifestyles in Europe.
What are the research topics of EU-InnovatE?
The two central themes of EU-InnovatE are user innovation and user entrepreneurship.
The integration of users in innovation projects directed toward sustainable development is important but complex. For example, previous studies focusing on green innovation have shown that companies can gain competitive advantage by collaborating with multiple stakeholders in the innovation process. To unravel the intricacy of this topic, we have further researched how organizational forms, culture, structure, and management styles influence the integration of end users. To do so, multiple case studies, surveys, and lab experiments have been conducted.
Entrepreneurs are increasingly focusing on sustainable ideas that integrate a triple bottom line approach of financial, ecological, and social goals. These new ventures create impact in different domains and have the potential to eventually radically change the social, business, and political landscape. Therefore, making use of a large number of in-depth case studies, we have endeavored to answer various relevant questions in this field: What does the sustainable entrepreneurial process look like? What are the key enabling or hindering factors for sustainable entrepreneurs to succeed and above all sustain their new business?
Besides focusing on the innovative and entrepreneurial roles of end users, in EU-InnovatE we also seek to bring an understanding to the past and present of (un-)sustainable lifestyles in Europe, and to identify the opportunities and obstacles associated with the transition to sustainable lifestyles using scenario analysis. Since policy constitutes a critical agent in such transitions, we also explore existing and new policy tools for ameliorating sustainable user innovation and entrepreneurship.
What’s to come on this blog?
We will provide posts on a regular basis throughout the upcoming weeks and look forward to discussing those with you. Please feel free to comment and share your own experiences. Together, we hope that we can enrich our research results and further enhance their practical relevance for end users, businesses, and policy to achieve our common goal of more sustainable lifestyles in Europe.
Your EU-InnovatE Team