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Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Measuring user innovation in the UK

This report investigates the importance of product creation by users.

This report investigates the importance of product creation by users.

Key findings:

  • Technology and market trends are changing the way innovation gets done, and by whom.
  • 8 per cent of UK consumers create or modify one or more of the consumer products (such as cars, sporting equipment or gardening tools) they use in order to better address their needs. This represents a major category of undocumented innovation in the UK. Understanding these activities will help policymakers formulate more effective innovation policies.

The report also explores the extent to which UK firms develop and improve process technologies to better serve their in-house needs. The results of the survey show that 15 per cent of respondents have modified or created process equipment and/or process software for their own use over the last three years. There is justification for policies to encourage firms to assess the wider applicability of their user innovations, and when it makes sense, share them with others.

As previous research has shown, users - both firms and individual consumers - play a much more active role in processes of innovation than it had been generally believed.

To date, most studies of user innovation have focused on specific consumer and industrial categories. But cross-industry studies of the phenomenon are needed to build a robust evidence base for policymaking, and to support managerial decision-making.

This report sets out to address this gap in the understanding of the role of users - including individual consumers and business firms – in processes of innovation across a range of sectors and activities. It presents findings from a world-first survey of product innovation by consumers, and from the first cross-industry survey of user process innovation by UK firms.

Stephen Flowers, Eric von Hippel, Jeroen de Jong and Tanja Sinozic