Illumination in times of Uncertainty: Fifty Shades of Innovation for Societal Impact

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João José Pinto Ferreira
Anne-Laure Mention
Marko Torkkeli


Innovate or die. This observation is nothing new; yet it is probably more true and topical than ever. Over the last decades, innovation has expanded in an unprecedented manner and is now part of most firms’ strategies, if not the nexus of their strategies.  Originally, mainly centred around the introduction of manufactured novelties, innovation is now perceived and depicted by as many adjectives, categories and attributes as one can think of: service, organisational, process,  marketing, social, environmental, strategic, business model, and so on. This extension of the nature, types and forms of innovation goes hand in hand with the development of the academic literature focusing not only on the tangibility nature of novelties, but also on the intangibility character of some, or even most, of those. Moreover, and, as the analysis of leading-edge companies shows, innovation is nowadays never restricted to a single specific form. Innovation now embraces bundles of products and services, which are subject to new business models, distributed through new channels increasingly benefitting from an accrued interaction with customers, enrolling them in the development and marketing processes. The boundaries between goods and services innovations have blurred over time, leading to an abundant literature stemming from the convergence or synthesis streams, aiming at building a unified theory for innovation, and highlighting the convergence between the typical features of product innovation (such as the tangibility and the standardization) and those of service innovation (customer-centric, less structured, intangible), as argued by e.g. Evangelista (2006) and Gallouj and Savona (2009). (...)

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