Innovation Intermediaries is a concept in innovation studies to help understand the role of firms, agencies and individuals that facilitate innovation by providing the bridging, brokering, knowledge transfer necessary to bring together the range of different organisations and knowledge needed to create successful innovation. Innovation intermediaries have always played a key role in innovation, for example the agricultural middlemen in 16th, 17th and 18th century Britain who not only bought and sold wool, but facilitated the transfer of knowledge of new techniques. With the recent fashion for 'Open Innovation' involving complex networks of firms and users, organisations such as consultants, service incubators, conference organisers, trade organisations, government innovation agencies etc. are now recognised as playing a central role in facilitating and coordinating innovation.
Innovation intermediaries are variously described as 'bridgers', ' change agents', 'brokers'. They are important as the developers of a new invention or technique are seldom connected to their potential users, or to the firms and organisations that have complementary expertise, knowledge and resources. The same applies to potential users of innovations, so that intermediaries are needed to bring organisations and knowledge together to build supply networks and markets.
Intermediaries play a wide range of roles, facilitating the bringing together of various actors at different parts of innovation processes such as ideation, invention, standards making, managing IPR, commercialisation, creating new market segments etc. These intermediaries can specialise in different services. Basic functions include process coordination and matchmaking between innovation seekers and potential solution providers, knowledge and finance broking, testing, standardisation, project valuation and portfolio management etc. Each of these activities facilitates the exchange and the building of new knowledge, creates opportunities for experimentation, helps the emergence of standards and common goals, and the formation of partnerships.
In the age of the internet, there are increasing numbers of online services and platform that explicitly try to play the role of innovation intermediary, including technology matchmaking services, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing services, meetup sites etc
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