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The digitalization of the innovation process: challenges and opportunities from a managerial perspective

Special issue call for papers from European Journal of Innovation Management

Aims and Scope

Within the past decade, the way of doing business has dramatically transformed worldwide. Firms are progressively undertaking digital transformations not only to rethink what customers value but also to create operating models that take advantage of what’s newly possible for competitive differentiation (Berman, 2012). In this scenario, innovation continues to be essential to the development of society, to business growth, and to maintain the competitive advantage within markets. In addition, innovation process remains iterative, uncertain, interactive, path-dependent, context-specific and multi-tasking (Franklin et al., 2013; Hüsig and Kohn, 2009). Therefore, the identification of solutions to successfully accomplishing the complex innovation process, from the ideation phase to market diffusion, remains an interesting topic (Brem et al., 2016; Ganzaroli et al., 2016; Rekonen and Björklund, 2016).

To date, the digitalization of the innovation process seems gaining momentum in the scientific literature (Brem and Viardot, 2017). As stressed by various scholars, the exponential growth of digital technologies has caused significant improvements in many business processes, playing a significant role also in the innovation field (e.g. Yoo et al. 2012; Levine and Prietula, 2013; Holmstrom and Partanen, 2014; Hylving, 2015).

Within this context, the term digital innovation has been conceptualized as “the creation of (and consequent change in) market offerings, business processes, or models that result from the use of digital technologies” and, consequently, digital innovation management refers to the “practices, processes, and principles that underlie the effective orchestration of digital innovation” (Nambisan et al., 2017, p. 224). In a recent special issue on this topic rooted into information systems research stream (Nambisan et al., 2017), it has been stresses the need to move forward the theory on digital innovation management. However, it is also stressed that, without an interdisciplinary effort, which involves research performed by scholars belonging to other disciplines (Nambisan et al., 2017) and addressing competing concerns (Svahn et al., 2017), it is unlikely that valuable theoretical advancements would be realized.

The starting assumption of the present special issue is that companies can use and implement digital technologies for different innovative purposes. For example, Artificial Intelligence can be used to support the downstream phases of the innovation process, such as the commercialization one, thanks to the processing of real-time information flows along the lifecycle of products, which provides strong data support in terms of marketing and sales (Martínez-López and Casillas, 2013). Thus, it could lead to product improvement according to customers’ feedbacks, together with the opportunity of developing strong collaboration and coordination of activities with customers. Big Data can be used for user-centric knowledge-driven product development (Johanson et al., 2014). Finally, Cloud Computing is highlighted as a new digital service allowing companies to reduce costs and allow more flexible resource management in several phases of the innovation process (Lin and Chen, 2012; Lian et al., 2014). Boss et al. (2007) have stressed how companies can use cloud computing to quickly develop, test and make their innovations available to the user community, because it enables faster deployment cycles of new products and services. In addition, Wu et al. (2013) emphasized the role of cloud computing in supporting decision-making processes of companies, by satisfying the information-processing requirements along the phases of their innovation processes.

Beyond that, specific software and tools designed to support innovation activities are seen as supportive to streamline the innovation process further, and to coordinate the project team through the different information-generating and disseminating activities. This feature perfectly fits also with the still increasing tendency towards opening the innovation process to external actors to take advantage of new knowledge. Indeed, firms are moving from stand-alone organizations to multi-firms’ networks that collaboratively innovate with partners, suppliers and customers, in what is commonly referred to as open or collaborative environment. In such a context, digital technologies play a key role as enablers of communication, exchange of quality and timely information, knowledge sharing, storing, and protection.

Finally, digital technologies may support knowledge management processes, and their use may have both structural and behavioural implications (Gressgård, 2011). As for structural implications, the use of such tools increases access to both internal and external knowledge, and facilitates dissemination of knowledge to organizational members. Online innovation contexts (and crowdsourcing, more in general) represent a significant example: they are generally recognized as new forms of inbound open innovation (Huizingh, 2011) where individuals or institutions take an idea or solution and outsource it to an undefined large group of individuals using advanced collaborative technologies (Martinez, 2017). These web-enabled systems gather ideas from a crowd of users with diverse skill sets, knowledge and expertise, which organizations exploit for the development of novel ideas and solutions. As for behavioural implications, the use of digital technologies may influence human interaction, thus facilitating knowledge development and the creation of a shared understanding among organizational members (Gressgård et al., 2014).

To conclude, while digital innovation allows overcoming social, technical, geographical and organizational barriers, they also pose serious managerial and organisational challenges to firms. Moreover, it is surprising to note that there are very scant studies explaining in-depth how and why digital technologies can be used by companies to improve or manage the innovation process. In fact, while the literature devoted noteworthy emphasis from a technological or information system perspective, little is known about digital innovation from a managerial perspective.

Important Dates

First submission deadline: 31st January, 2018
First round of review: 30th April, 2018
Second submission deadline: 31st July, 2018
Second round of review: 31st October, 2018
Final decision: 31st January, 2019

The special issue is expected to be published in 2019.

For any further information, please visit the journal website or contact us using the information provided below!

Guest editors

Lara AGOSTINI (lara.agostini@unipd.it) is Assistant Professor in the Department of Management and Engineering at the University of Padova, Italy. Her main research areas are alliances and networks, innovation management and intellectual capital.
Francesco GALATI (francesco.galati@unipr.it) is Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering and Architecture at the University of Parma, Italy. His main research interests concern innovation management, technology transfer and knowledge management.

Luca GASTALDI (luca.gastaldi@polimi.it) is Assistant Professor in the Department of Management, Economics and industrial Engineering at Politecnico di Milano, Italy. His main research areas are digital innovation (with an emphasis in public administrations), ambidexterity, continuous innovation and smart working.

Tommaso SAVINO (tommaso.savino@poliba.it) is currently a Research Fellow at Politecnico di Bari His main research interests concern the innovation management in creative and cultural industries, the organizational solutions to recombine knowledge, and team composition.

Francesco Paolo APPIO (francesco.appio@devinci.fr) is Head of the Business Research Group and Associate Professor of Innovation at the Research Center of the Pôle Universitaire Léonard de Vinci in Paris. His main research interests deal with the antecedents (novelty and originality) and consequences (impact) of radical innovations. 


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