This course will become read-only in the near future. Tell us at if that is a problem.

First reading assignment: What is an Innovation Ecology


here are two texts to get a discussion going "What is an Innovation Ecology"



  • What is the context (school, ...) each of those texts is coming from?
  • Why are the authors interested in "Innovation Ecology"?
  • What is their definition or understanding of "Innovation Ecology"?

Task Discussion

  • Ralph Kerle   Aug. 26, 2011, 10:23 p.m.

    The Socio-technical Networks of Technology Users' Innovation in New Zealand: A Fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis, by Simon J. Lambert John R. Fairweather

    I found this article fuzzy in its construct, in its own way not unlike creativity and innovation. The question is though does it provide us with a framework for understanding and making sense of an innovation ecology.

    As it rightly points out, New Zealand is an advanced economy according to OECD standards and operates as a semi-planned economy so it again has a Eurocentric bias and thus I question its content and findings are relevant to emerging economies.

    It does highlight the importance of the cultural context and characteristics of an innovation ecology.

    The idea of "the inventor in the shed" and the one-off nature of their creative problem solving is a cultural characteristic of both New Zealand and Australia inventors as a result of the tyranny of distance and the necessity of invention when European settlement first occurred. The simple fact of needing to farm to survive with seasons turned upside down, a climate the settlers had no knowledge of and flora and fauna that was completely unknown meant the early settlers were required to be inventive, to share knowledge and failure quickly in a complete vacuum in order for the community just to be self sufficient. This challenge occurred at the beginning of the industrial age from the late 1700s onwards so the inventiveness was not primitive and had a degree of Europena sophistication behind it. This cultural heritage and its characteristics were defining elements and continue to be so in the South Pacific and have stood them in good stead ever since.

    Invention of something new where individual trial and error triumphed in those early days meant a chance for quick local economic success and so small inventions and their secrets were closely guarded. Indeed, as it evolved inventors did not want governments involved as government began to set up its own organizations with substantial resources and highly educated scientists whose responsibility it was to solve problems for the common good of the nation often intersecting in areas where the small inventors had made real advances. This was and is fertile ground for innovation impediment.  There was and still is often tensions and mistrust between these groups based on status, education and privilege and the right and might of knowledge and the lone amateur inventors in their sheds who threaten the very existence of government funding through their potential to gain important breakthroughs that can be commercialised for profit and gain - inventions governments might feel are for the common good. One sees this scenario played out in a popular TV series in Australia where inventors bring their inventions to a TV competiton to be judged by scientists and academics.

    The reality is both sides have practices that can inform each other, although in reality, the skills to bring these two bodies together is often far more difficult to achieve because of the competing agendas than the invention itself.

    It is against this background that the relevance of socio-technical networks to an innovation ecology needs to be examined. The article identifies a couple of important points - large companies are disinterested in working with smaller players and companies; the constant tension and struggle between the initiation of innovation and its implementation; the influence of the social in innovation and the difficulty in determing whether the innovation outcome is successful.

    However, the article itself is very academic and shows a real lack of understanding of how  markets affect commercialisation in an innovation ecology. Whilst it offered some insights into how an academic research project might frame an innovation ecology, it hardly advanced our understanding of how an innovation ecology works in practice.

  • Ralph Kerle   Aug. 20, 2011, 4:23 a.m.

    Peter, As a p2p learning group, should we not define what an innovation ecology is ourselves. What is an innovation ecology? How do we observe one? What are our experiences and our practices in that context? Why add "innovation" as an adjective to the noun "ecology"? Can an ecology be innovative or is an ecology built on a constant battle to find homeostatis? "An innovation ecology" - is there such a thing or is this nomenclature technical academic jargon that has little meaning for those involved in the practice of innovation?

  • Ralph Kerle   Aug. 19, 2011, 11:21 p.m.

    My comments on the first article "Innovation Engines for knowledge cities: an innovation ecology perspective.

    This article perceives an innovation ecology in terms of its physical structures rather than its people and their creative behaviours. Whilst it offers a list of 14 elements in an innovation ecology and outlines briefly some ideas about techniques that may be used to develop conversations around innovation within those physical structures,  it completely ignores a substantial body of work on creative classes and creative cities by Prof. Richard Florida  In particular his 3T's Index -  tolerance, talent, technology - which rates a cities' creativity and thus capacity to be innovative on the basis of its ability to offer the right sort of  open and free thinking environment that attracts the likeminded or suitably skilled supported by appropriate technology infrastructure.

    It also offers no coherency about how the "14 elements of an innovation ecology" might be  prioritised or assessed in terms of their contribution to the development of innovation engines in knowledge cities..

    This article offers a particularly Eurocentric perspective and fails to refer to any of the most recent outstanding examples of emergent knowledge cities or states such as Bangalore, Singapore, Shanghai and the current experiment that is underway in Kuala Lumpur in making that city the educational centre for SE Asia and a global centre for the development of Islamic culture and knowledge

    Knowledge cities grow out of the natural environment of their location (ie place, culture and people) and the homeostatis between the recognition by political leaders of the creative behaviours and sensibilities of its people, and their ability to lead within those constraints, and the affects their leadership and those components have on its culture  - not through the construct of specific physical environments around some vague definitions of the elements of a supposed "ecology"

    That is an ideological approach and has historically nearly always ended up in civil argument, sometimes leading to violence and war.