Eric von Hippel on User Centered Innovation

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= how innovation driven is often driven by users and what the effects of that are.

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Another, marvellous conversation, here at


"In a sense, hardware is becoming much more like software, up to the point where you actually fabricate an object," von Hippel says. "That's why you're starting to see open source techniques in hardware. Design is largely going to shift out from manufacturers to the communities."

"When extending the open source concept from software to 'hardware' (as in actual, physical things) von Hippel says the following:

"... In the case of open source software this is possible because innovations can be “produced” and distributed essentially for free on the web, software being an information rather than a physical product. In the case of the sports innovation example, however, equipment (but not technique) innovations are embodied in physical product that, to achieve general diffusion, must be produced and physically distributed. These activities generally involve significant economies of scale. The result, in the case of the windsurfing example and for physical products generally, is that, while innovation prototyping and field trial and refinement can be carried out by users and within user innovation networks, production and diffusion of the physical products incorporating those innovations will usually be carried out by manufacturing firms. ..."

(Source: von Hippel, E., Horizontal innovation networks - by and for users, Industrial and Corporate Change Advance Access, published May 16, 2007, p. 22 [1])