Collaborative industrial platforms and the role of institutions: an innovation ecosystem perspective
Traditionally, innovation has been regarded as a process closely related to technological development and with a focus on intra-organizational activities. However, recently, innovation is recognized as a multi-actor phenomenon across in complex innovation-related ecosystems. Researchers and practitioners agree that a key aspect to manage innovation processes is the understanding of a firm's position in its ecosystem and its pictures/map of the overall ecosystem.
Some types of ecosystems hold an industry platform which defines standards, rules and overall function of the system, which allows for integration between the industry platform and different businesses. The present case study is situated in the energy sector, which is seen as our industry platform encapsulated within in the larger ecosystem. The sector is characterized by new technologies that allow a move from centralized (e.g., nuclear) electric production to distributed (e.g., solar) electric production and a replacement of fossil fuels with renewables. The case study investigate four electric utility firms that collaborate with an aim of innovating the focal offering in terms of customer value propositions. Our research aim evolves around how different firms pictures the ecosystem and how the different pictures enable and constrain innovation.
Our preliminary findings indicate that (1) Firms imagine the ecosystem and their roles within the ecosystem in different ways. Some firms picture their ecosystem more narrowly than others, which is limiting the possibilities for innovation. These firms tend to imitate innovations created by firms that imagine the ecosystem in a broader way. (2) Innovation requires a new set of interactive competences and skills among the firms. (3) Innovation within the business ecosystem is more incremental than radical, where a lot of effort is concentrated on innovating customer offerings. (4) The industry platform in this setting is clearly and narrowly defined, which allows for easy integration but restricts the possibilities for innovation.