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Innovation Networks – contribution to George A. Barnett’s Encyclopedia of Social Networks (SAGE Publications)

Use and integration of external information and knowledge resources provide a major contribution to a company’s innovation processes and outcomes. While focusing on their specific roles is not a new issue of recent research or management practice, external knowledge, meanwhile, has become increasingly important during the last decades. Today, collaboration in innovation networks likely plays a more important role than ever before.

Upsurge in Innovation Networks

Already in the 1960s, key findings of empirical research focused on the role of external sources for the generation of innovation and thus, on the importance of boundary-spanning networks for a company’s research and development (R&D) activities. Until that time, most innovation research was a little systematic, more or less anecdotal or purely technical. Even economists such as Joseph Schumpeter did not study the specific features of actual innovations in any depth. During the late 1960s, research started to demonstrate the vital importance of external information networks and of collaboration with customers, suppliers, research institutes, universities, and other R&D partners during the product development process. As documented by Roy Rothwell and colleagues, the SAPPHO project was one of the most comprehensive empirical studies, which is representative of research on innovation at this time. Among the most important characteristics for the success and failure of innovation as identified in the project are user needs and networks, coupling of development, production, and marketing activities, linkage with external sources of scientific and technical information and advice, and concentration of high-quality R&D resources on the innovative project. These characteristics already show the primary importance of networks and external resources as critical factors for the success and failure of innovation. Moreover, the results of the project already stressed the importance of both formal and informal networks.

Continue reading the whole article by Tobias Müller-Prothmann: “Innovation Networks”, in: George A. Barnett (ed.): Encyclopedia of Social Networks, pp. 416-418. London: SAGE Publications.

About the Encyclopedia of Social Networks (Source:

This two-volume encyclopedia provides a thorough introduction to the wide-ranging, fast-developing field of social networking, a much-needed resource at a time when new social networks or “communities” seem to spring up on the internet every day. Social networks, or groupings of individuals tied by one or more specific types of interests or interdependencies ranging from likes and dislikes, or disease transmission to the “old boy” network or overlapping circles of friends, have been in existence for longer than services such as Facebook or YouTube; analysis of these networks emphasizes the relationships within the network . This reference resource offers comprehensive coverage of the theory and research within the social sciences that has sprung from the analysis of such groupings, with accompanying definitions, measures, and research.

Featuring approximately 350 signed entries, along with approximately 40 media clips, organized alphabetically and offering cross-references and suggestions for further readings, this encyclopedia opens with a thematic Reader’s Guide in the front that groups related entries by topics. A Chronology offers the reader historical perspective on the study of social networks. This two-volume reference work is a must-have resource for libraries serving researchers interested in the various fields related to social networks.

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