Eric Von Hippel
- Eric von Hippel, user-centric innovation expert
Eric von Hippel is the author of the Democratization of Innovation, and an expert on peer-based innovation processes in business and industry.He is Professor and Head of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Home page is located at  Contact email at [[email protected]] Online version of his book at His papers are located at 
He's a representative quote on the nature of his research on user-centric vs. manufacturer-centric innovation, from the first chapter of his book: "When I say that innovation is being democratized, I mean that users of products and services—both firms and individual consumers—are increasingly able to innovate for themselves. User-centered innovation processes offer great advantages over the manufacturer-centric innovation development systems that have been the mainstay of commerce for hundreds of years. Users that innovate can develop exactly what they want, rather than relying on manufacturers to act as their (often very imperfect) agents. Moreover, individual users do not have to develop everything they need on their own: they can benefit from innovations developed and freely shared by others. The trend toward democratization of innovation applies to information products such as software and also to physical products.
The user-centered innovation process just illustrated is in sharp contrast to the traditional model, in which products and services are developed by manufacturers in a closed way, the manufacturers using patents, copyrights, and other protections to prevent imitators from free riding on their innovation investments. In this traditional model, a user’s only role is to have needs, which manufacturers then identify and fill by designing and producing new products. The manufacturer-centric model does fit some fields and conditions. However, a growing body of empirical work shows that users are the first to develop many and perhaps most new industrial and consumer products. Further, the contribution of users is growing steadily larger as a result of continuing advances in computer and communications capabilities. In this book I explain in detail how the emerging process of user-centric, democratized innovation works. I also explain how innovation by users provides a very necessary complement to and feedstock for manufacturer innovation. The ongoing shift of innovation to users has some very attractive qualities. It is becoming progressively easier for many users to get precisely what they want by designing it for themselves. And innovation by users appears to increase social welfare." (( )