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The Role of ‘User Innovators’ in the Development of Telecom Products and Services

The Role of ‘User Innovators’ in the Development of Telecom Products and Services
Start Date: 2010 End Date: 2013
PIs: Pedro Manuel Sousa Mendes Oliveira (CLSBE) and Francisco Veloso (CLSBE and CMU)
Co-PIs: Pedro Ferreira (CMU) and Miguel Pinha e Cunha (Nova School of Business and Economics)

Dual Degree Ph.D. Students: Paul van der Boor (Technological Change and Entrepreneurship), Leid Zejnilovic (Technological Change and Entrepreneurship), Miguel Godinho de Matos (Engineering and Public Policy), Moinul Zaber (Engineering and Public Policy), Rodrigo Belo (Technological Change and Entrepreneurship), and Serban Mogos (Technological Change and Entrepreneurship)

Teams: Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Faculdade de Economia da Universidade Nova de Lisboa (FE/UNL), UNICEE/FCEE/UCP, ISR Lisboa, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)

Companies: Ericsson Nikola Tesla, Nokia Siemens Networks

Keywords: User Innovation; Telecom Services; Open Platforms; User Entrepreneurship

This project investigates the role of ‘users’ as sources of innovative ideas for new Telecom/IT products and services. User innovation refers to those innovations developed by users, rather than manufacturers. Users can be ‘firms or individual’ consumers that expect to benefit from using a product or service. In contrast, manufacturers expect to benefit from selling a product or a service. Von Hippel and colleagues found that most commercially successful products are actually developed by users, who then give those ideas to the manufacturers. While research looking at the role of users in developing innovations is not new, prior work has mostly focused on products and considered a context where the user is an individual. Yet, both practitioners and researchers are also keenly interested in understanding how service and service innovation can be used to differentiate and enhance commercial relationships. Firms are also deploying more open platforms in their products and services, providing greater opportunities for their users, other firms, to build and adapt their offerings.

This project investigates critical topics in user innovation, giving particular attention to the role of ‘service users’ in developing new services. The context is that of innovative projects in the telecom area. A service innovation is user-developed if the developer expects to benefit from use, and provider-developed if the developer expects to benefit from sales. Oliveira and von Hippel (2009) studied banking service industries and concluded that the vast majority of successful services was in fact developed by users; there is no reason to expect that it will be different in telecom services, including B2B services and products. Yet, this has not been carefully researched. With this project we attempt to answer the following research questions: To what extent can ‘users’ develop and self provide new products and services in the telecom/ICT sector? What are the operational antecedents that influence user service and product provision in a B2B context? How does the interconnection between product and service offerings affects the role of the user as an innovator? Which factors facilitate the generation of new service ideas within service organizations?

Some outcomes of the research project::
PPL – Crowdfunding Portugal (pioneering crowdfunding platform in Portugal) more
Patient Innovation Platform more

Articles published in the Portuguese media:
Pedro Oliveira’s Paper Received the 2nd prize of Best Paper Award Innovation Management 2011 [CiênciaPT, Dinheiro Vivo, Human Online, Canal Up Online, MSN Online]

Patient Innovation: Innovative Medical Solutions [SIC]