Innovation Intermediaries: Practice and Use of Evidence
Eng, Rodrigo Alejandro
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Governments of the G7 have relied primarily on two strategies to develop their respective economies, the commercialization of research using licensing models and new venture creation. Yet, they have acknowledged no specific approach to achieving commercialization success. In fact, the results of the methods used for the commercialization of results are generally viewed as not satisfactory, thus creating room for new approaches to be proposed. One of the strategies used to assist the commercialization process has been recently instituted through social actors called innovation intermediaries. Their involvement in the commercialization process has the potential not only to facilitate the process but also to diffuse knowledge and foster innovation. To date, their practices are still under development, motivating academics in various disciplines to originate research studies aimed at gaining a better understanding of them. The literature has proposed definitions and attributed functions to innovation intermediaries, but it has not arrived at a definitive description of these actors or their activities. In practice, innovation intermediaries do not have a standard operational structure, established methods, or metrics to report their results; they have yet to, establish their own practices or use evidence to inform their activities. The objective of this study is to clarify their practices and challenge their current modus operandi with a view to improvement. To explain the activities of innovation intermediaries (their practice), to expose the role of evidence, and to represent the main concerns of innovation intermediaries, a framework based on distinctive attributes of the practice was produced using insights gained from a systematic literature review, an exploratory study, and literature stressing the importance of evidence. The framework was tested using a confirmatory study in the form of an online survey with the participation of 55 innovation intermediaries from around the world. The results show that innovation intermediaries have a predisposition to focus their practice on strategic concerns, finding a fit for the venture offering in the market while neglecting to oversee the mechanisms required for developing a viable venture offering. They tend to support their decisions anecdotally, referencing their previous experiences without the support of systematic methods to corroborate their conclusions. Their prioritized goals are first, to persuade investors and sponsors to collaborate with their clients; second, to help their clients occupy a leading position in their markets, and third, to support their clients to refine the venture offering and transform it into a commercial success. The emergent framework has characterized the practice of innovation intermediaries, identified particular gaps in their activities and their use of evidence, and suggested that the current focus in the practice of innovation intermediaries may not be contributing all that it could to the commercialization process. This framework may be of significant value to advance this field of knowledge and hopefully contribute to professionalize the practice of these social actors. Ultimately, this research could form the foundation for strengthening evidence-based best practices for innovation intermediaries.