The themes of technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and organizing

The Integration of Independent Inventors in Open Innovation

Gavin Smeilus

University of Wolverhampton, UK & Caparo Innovation Centre, UK

Robert Harris

University of Wolverhampton, UK

Andrew Pollard

University of Wolverhampton, UK & Caparo Innovation Centre, UK


Whilst current academic literature points to the growing importance of Open Innovation as a means of companies capturing new products from sources other than internal R & D facilities; the integration of independent inventors, a source of innovative new products, within Open Innovation has proven challenging. This chapter presents a series of preliminary Critical Success Factors, driven by current academic literature, which are intended to positively contribute towards independent inventors becom­ing more successful suppliers of new product ideas to businesses operating an open innovation model; with the intention that adherence to such factors may have a positive influence on the effectiveness and future sustainability of Open Innovation.

Copyright © 2012, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.


The Open Innovation model, at a theoretical level, allows for independent inventors to become sup­pliers of new product ideas to companies. There is little evidence however, to suggest that the practical integration of independent inventors as suppliers, to businesses operating an Open Inno­vation mechanism, has been fruitful. Indeed, data

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-165-8.ch008 from an existing open innovation centre suggests that just 0.7% of new product ideas supplied by independent inventors resulted in the business launching a new product on to the market. This statistic raises concerns as to whether open in­novation models operated by companies, which rely on inputs from independent inventors, are sustainable.

Figure 1. The closed innovation model (Chesbrough, 2003)

Source: www. openinnovation. eu/openinnovatie. php

The chapter will present a series of preliminary Critical Success Factors, driven by academic lit­erature, intended to positively contribute towards
independent inventors becoming more success­ful suppliers of new product ideas to businesses operating an open innovation model; with the intention that adherence to such factors may have a positive influence on the future sustainability of such operations.

The chapter is structured as follows; firstly a summary of the key principles behind Open Inno­vation is outlined. Secondly, a discussion suggests what is currently understood about independent inventors and then finally, a series of preliminary critical success factors are proposed, underpinned by current academic literature. The identification of Critical Success Factors will guide independent inventors to operate as successful suppliers of new product ideas to businesses following an Open Innovation model.

Open Innovation Principles

A formal definition of Open Innovation is suggest­ed by Chesbrough, Vanhaverbeke & West (2006, p.1) “Open Innovation is the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively.”

Figure 2. The open innovation model (Chesbrough, 2003)

Essentially a mechanism for organising innova­tion related activity within large R&D led busi­nesses (Chesbrough, 2003); the Open Innovation model provides a relatively new and contrasting approach to the Closed Innovation model, which is historically prevalent amongst large innovative companies. The traditional Closed Innovation model relies heavily upon the internal capabili­ties of businesses to develop and commercialise a new product or service with little or no input, regarding the innovation process, coming from external sources. Within the Closed Innovation model, businesses typically generate the innova­tive concepts, perform R&D related activities that facilitate the metamorphosis from concept to innovative product, then complete commerciali­sation related activity in the form of marketing through to distribution (Chesbrough, 2003). The diagram in Figure 1 proposed by Chesbrough (2003) summarises this process very effectively: In interpreting Figure 1, the critical aspect is research investigations and development projects reside within non-permeable firm boundaries. As such, there is a heavy reliance upon the company’s internal science and technology base to originate, research and develop innovations. The figure il­lustrates the funnelling effect experienced as re­search investigations are filtered down in number as go/no-go decisions are reached, regarding in­
dividual projects, potentially through a stage-gate process.

In terms of outputs, the company is constrained to direct commercialisation of its development projects.

Open Innovation

The Open Innovation model, as proposed by Chesbrough (2003) has two distinct elements: “Inbound Open Innovation” and “Outbound Open Innovation”. Inbound Open Innovation is directly related to the aspect of the model that allows the company to search for and integrate innovative concepts and products from sources outside ofthe company (Chesbrough, 2003). Outbound Open Innovation is concerned with using external routes to commercialisation (Chesbrough, 2003). It can be argued that a useful source of innovations for a business is through researching best practice in industries and markets outside of its own. The Open Innovation model allows inter-industry exploration and collaboration to take place.

The diagram in Figure 2 proposed by Ches - brough (2003) provides an effective illustration of this opportunity.

In interpreting Figure 2, the important point is research investigations and development may originate within the company or be in-sourced through permeable firm boundaries. As such, reliance upon the company’s internal science and technology base to originate, research and de­velop innovations is reduced as input can be taken from external sources.

In terms of outputs, the company can launch new products directly into current markets, form spin-out companies to carry the technology into a new market or license the intellectual property rights to a third party company who subsequently launches it into the market.

The contention is made that innovation has, and potentially still is, undergoing a “.. .paradigm shift from a closed to an open model” (Chesbrough & Crowther, 2006, p.229); although some ac­knowledgement should be made that there is the potential for huge variation across industry sectors, since innovation is never homogenous. A number of environmental factors have contributed to this alleged paradigm shift, including: an increase in the number of and quality of external suppliers, the growth and apparent success of the venture capi­tal sector, which has facilitated the development of new, usually relatively small businesses that

hold the intellectual property rights to innovative technology and the increased freedom enjoyed by knowledge workers (Christensen et al., 2005). It is also possible to suggest that factors such as: a general trend towards outsourcing, strengthening of international patent law and globalisation may be contributory.

This chapter focuses on the inbound element of the Open Innovation model that facilitates the use of external parties, specifically independent inventors, as suppliers of new product ideas.

A Profile of Independent Inventors

Independent inventors are characterised by two factors; firstly their inventive activity is conducted outside the confines of an established business and secondly, the independent inventor has no formal obligation to invent (Lettl et al., 2009; Whalley, 1991)

From a demographic perspective independent inventors have historically tended to be male rather than female (Parker et al., 1996). This appears to reinforce Albaum’s (1975) research which, based on a sample of 103 independent inventors who had approached the Experimental Center for the Advancement of Invention and Innovation at the University of Oregon between 1974-1975, sug­gested that female inventors were responsible for just 10-11% of invention.

A number of studies (Albaum, 1975; Parker et al., 1996; Sirilli, 1987; Hisrich, 1985; Weick and Eakin, 2005) make an attempt to identify the typical age of an independent inventor. Whilst the age categories used in some studies, Parker et al. (1996) for example, makes the result too broad to be helpful, the results of three studies suggest that independent inventors are likely to be in their late forties to early fifties. Sirilli (1987) suggests an average age of 46.5 years; Weick and Eakin (2005) conclude an average age of 50-years and Albaum (1975) 54 years of age. In terms of fu­ture demographic trends within the independent inventor community, there is an expectation that the average age of independent inventors will increase as more retired people take up inventing (Richards, 2002)

With regard to educational attainment, inde­pendent inventors appear to be more educated, in a formal sense at least, than the general public (Parker et al., 1996). 68% of those independent inventors studied by Parker et al., (1996) had been in receipt of college training. This view is supported by Albaum (1975) who suggests that of respondents to his study 30.1% had some Higher Education experience, 11.7% had an undergradu­ate degree, 18.4% undertook post-graduate train­ing and 16.5% held a post-graduate degree.

In terms of profession, independent inventors are not heavily concentrated in any particular occupational classification, however those in technical, skilled and farmer occupations were represented to a greater degree in the sample of 141 independent inventors used for the study conducted by Parker et al., (1996) than they were in the general population; as determined by the Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1990.

In addition to demographic characteristics, the current body of literature on independent inven­tors suggest a number of other interesting char­acteristics. Firstly, independent inventors place a significant importance on both “.autonomy and individuality.” (Weick & Martin, 2006, p.10). Whilst the definition of independent inventors does not prescribe an autonomous approach to working, the ability to work alone when required appears to be important to this group. Secondly, independent inventors have a particular skill in the identification of problems (Weick and Martin, 2006). This suggests that independent inventors may be well equipped to operate a market pull, as opposed to technology push strategy for invention; firstly identifying problems and then developing an inventive solution. Thirdly, surprisingly few independent inventors aspire to be an entrepreneur (Parker et al.,1996).

Types of Independent Inventors

Meyer (2005) illustrates the diversity of inven­tors by suggesting that there may be as many as four different types. The first category identified is: “Inventor-Entrepreneurs”, which denotes an inventor that attempts to use their invention in an entrepreneurial sense by setting up a start­up company as a vehicle to commercialisation. The second category: “Proprietor-inventors” are inventors that already operate a company and are seeking to exploit the invention through this company. The third category: “Licensing/transfer inventors” relates to inventors that opt to either license the intellectual property behind their invention to a third party or sell the intellectual property to a third party, in its entirety. The final category: “Academic Inventors” denotes inven­tions developed by academics within the HE sector (Mayer, 2005, p. 115).

In reflecting upon the definition of the inde­pendent inventor provided by Whalley (1991) and its emphasis on the inventor being external to a corporate institution, it is easy to see how independent inventors could stem from both the “Inventor-entrepreneur” and “Licensing/transfer inventors” group. It is slightly more difficult, al­though not impossible, to imagine that inventors categorised as “Academic Inventors” or “Propri - etor-Inventors” have the corporate independence necessary to be classed as independent inventors. Clearly, in the case ofthe “Inventor-entrepreneur” it could be that inventing is not part ofthe job role, but the inventor chooses to commercialise the in­vention via his or her existing company. Likewise in some parts of the world academics have no obligation to invent but do assume the full rights to intellectual property they develop and as such could be classified as an independent inventor.

Inventive Activity

Weick and Eakin (2005) present an insight into the activity undertaken by independent inventors. Their study, based on a sample of 351 question­naires from full-time and part-time independent inventors, produced a number of interesting find­ings, firstly they noted that an average independent inventor had progressed six inventions to the stage of having a working prototype, however they ac­knowledged that the median and modal average was considerably lower; 2 and 1 respectively. In terms of the nature of the inventions developed, Weick and Eakin (2005) identified that the most common areas for inventions were:

• Hardware/Tools (23%)

• Household Products (23%)

• Novelty Items (15%)

• Toys/Games and Hobbies (15%)

The nature of these innovations is consistent with the view of Astebro (1998) who made the assertion that independent inventors were most likely to develop inventions that are technically uncomplicated and demanded relatively lower financial investment. The findings of Weick and Eakin (2005); Dahlin et al. (2000) and Astebro (1998) seem to suggest that independent inven­tors are most likely to concentrate their efforts in industries that follow the Schumpeterian type I pattern ofinnovation, often referred to as “Creative Destruction” or “Widening” (Breschi et al, 2000). Conversely, the industries where fewer inventions were developed by independent inventors, include: Mineral recovery/processing, 2%; Biological/ microbiological, 2%; Marine/ocean technology, 3%; Telecommunications, 3%; (Weick & Eakin, 2005 p.10) appear to fit the characteristics of the Schumpeterian type II pattern of innovation (Breschi et al, 2000): patent applications often originate from a small number of companies that already hold a significant number of patents and hold established market leading positions; the knowledge upon which innovations are developed is likely to be strongly rooted in scientific prin­ciples; investment of significant sums of money is no guarantee of developing an innovative new product, however for new ideas that are developed they are likely to be patentable and founded on knowledge developed through prior innovations (Breschi et al, 2000).

Typical Commercialisation Paths Used by Independent Inventors

Weick and Eakin (2005) found that in their survey of independent inventors, 16% made no attempt to take their innovation to market, whilst Mayer

(2005) found that commercial success was not the objective of all independent inventors with some inventors believing that their efforts are validated by non-commercial success such as: placing the invention in the public domain to enhance ac­cessibility, improving public wealth or pursuing an innovation because it was interesting from a technical perspective. None the less, commer­cialisation remains the intention of the majority of independent inventors (Weick & Eakin, 2005).

Weick and Eakin (2005) suggest that there are potentially four commercialisation paths that can be utilised by independent inventors:

1. A start-up business maybe formed specifi­cally to act as a vehicle to carry a new in­novation to market.

2. The inventor is already the proprietor of a business that will be used to carry the in­novation to market.

3. The inventor chooses to license the intellec­tual property rights behind their innovation to a third party company, typically in return for a royalty on sales.

4. The inventor decides to sell the intellectual property rights behind the innovation out­right to a third party organisation.

In analysing the degree to which these poten­tial routes to market are utilised by independent inventors, Weick and Eakin (2005, p.11) identi­fied that licensing the intellectual property rights behind an innovation to a third party company was the most frequently used route to market with 44% of the 351 respondents to their study having employed this strategy. The second most popular commercialisation path was via a company inven­tor that distributes the innovation, but outsources the manufacturing element to a third party. This strategy was utilised by 29% of the independent inventors surveyed by Weick and Eakin (2005). Almost as frequently used was commercialisation through a company inventor that undertakes both the manufacturing and distribution ofthe innova­tion. 26% of respondents to the survey conducted by Weick and Eakin (2005) indicated that they had employed this commercialisation strategy. Of those independent inventors that responded to the survey, selling the innovation to another company in its entirety was the least utilised strategy with just 16% of respondents indicating that they had pursued this option.

Whilst the licensing ofthe intellectual property behind an invention is the most commonly used commercialisation path by independent inventors, consideration also needs to be given as to the extent to which the various commercialisation paths yield sales. Weick and Eakin (2005) make the assertion that those independent inventors that employed a licensing strategy were more inclined to achieve a higher level of sales than inventors that engaged with one of the other commercialisation paths: commercialisation via their own company or selling the rights to the innovation to another company outright.


Central to this chapter is the notion that inde­pendent inventors can enhance the prospect of achieving commercial success and become more effective suppliers of innovations to businesses, via an Open Innovation model, by paying heed to critical success factors. The 12 critical success factors proposed are driven by current academic literature and represent our view of the key fac­tors that emerge across multiple published texts (see Table 1). We acknowledge the omission of factors relating directly to the product/innovation under development as these reside outside of the scope of this particular study.

1. Time Commitment

There is a small portion of academic literature that discusses the extent to which the time commit­ment made by independent inventors to inventive activity impacts upon the level of commercial success achieved.

Weick and Martin (2006) suggest a positive correlation between the time an independent in­ventor commits to inventing and the potential for commercial success. In the first instance, full-time inventors are more productive when it comes to developing prototypes when compared to their part-time equivalent. In terms of commercialisa­tion, full-time inventors are more likely to take a product to market, achieve sales and make a profit than part-time inventors (Weick & Martin, 2006). This led Weick and Martin (2006, p.10) to conclude that the “.. .level of sales was a function ofmaking a full-time commitment to inventing...”

In a similar vein, Whalley (1991) notes that family commitments can impact upon the ef­fectiveness of independent inventors. For those independent inventors that do have a family and invent in their spare time, which is often the case


Time commitment


Use of intellectual property protection


Advice, support and guidance received


Timing of approach


Access to resources


Access to formal and informal social support networks


Ability to adopt a credible business persona


Willingness to share information


Ability to identify and gain access to potential com­mercial partners


Ability to select an appropriate commercialisation path


Alignment of inventor and corporate objectives


Experience of the inventor

(Mayer, 2005), family issues may create an ob­stacle to committing time to an innovation.

Moving away from literature relating directly to independent inventors, Poolton and Barclay

(1998) identify the need for long-term commit­ment to innovation projects as a critical factor in achieving new product introduction success at company level. In addition, Cooper and Klein- schmidt (2007) reinforce the importance of time commitment by suggest that many new product introduction attempts, at a business level, are hampered by a lack of time available to perform key tasks properly. Thus, the availability of time is viewed as potentially critical to successful new product introduction.

2. Use of Intellectual Property Protection

In addition to the time committed to invention, Weick and Martin (2006) note the importance of independent inventors being willing to invest in patents. Indeed Dahlin, Taylor & Finchman (2000); Khan and Sokoloff (1992) and Dagenais et al. (1991) are in agreement that the commer­cial success achieved by independent inventors is closely coupled with their use of the patenting system.

Whalley (1991, p.223) claims that patent protection “.turns the use value of the idea into something that has commercial possibility.” Reflecting on this statement there certainly ap­pears some logic. For example, if an independent inventor sought to commercialise their innovation via a start-up company then a patent adds to the commercial legitimacy of the business case by providing a legally founded mechanism for re­stricting competing products that infringe upon the technology outlined in the patent. This is an important issue when seeking investment in the new business. Perhaps more importantly, in par­ticular for this research inquiry is the pivotal role patent protection plays in new product introduction via a licensing deal. As Whalley (1991) suggests, the innovation developed by the inventor may have intrinsic value in so much that it resolves an acknowledged problem, but the innovation only has commercial value, in this instance, if it is patented. This is true in so much that a licensing deal works on the basis that the inventor agrees to allow a third party manufacturer to utilise their intellectual property (patent), for a given period of time, within a specified territory; in return for a predetermined royalty on sales. Without a patent, the inventor has little to exchange in return for a royalty, so the basis of the exchange breaks down and a commercial deal is unlikely to be brokered.

Bakos and Nowotarski (2003) add to the debate by suggesting that the existence of a patent for an innovation is not, in itself, enough to ensure a licensing deal because the patent still needs to be viewed as being credible in the eyes of the potential licensee. In discussing credibility, Bakos and Nowotarski (2003) suggest that a credible patent application is one which under review of a professional Patent Agent would be expected to be granted with the majority of its original claims still in place. Whilst we believe that this is a reasonable statement to an extent, in that it attempts to mitigate against patents that become very narrow as claims get removed and amalgam­ated, it does suppose that the originally drafted claims were of a reasonable scope to begin with.

3. Advice, Support and Guidance Received

Meyer (2005) suggests that the social and business skills possessed by an independent inventor have a considerable bearing on whether that individual is able to successfully commercialise their innova­tion. Unfortunately, Mayer (2005) also suggests that commercialisation of innovations is hampered by the skills set that many independent inventors actually possess.

As a result ofthis apparent deficiency in skills; the advice, support and guidance received by independent inventors from third party sources becomes critically important to the prospect of commercialisation. For example, Parker et al. (1996) make an assertion that the progress made by independent inventors towards commercialisa­tion of their innovation is positively influenced by the business, including marketing, advice and mentoring that they receive. Mayer (2005) suggests that independent inventors in receipt of intellectual property guidance and advice, early in the development process, are more able to select the most commercially relevant invention from their invention portfolio and as a result pursue the development and commercialisation of fewer ideas that are flawed, from an intellectual property perspective, from the outset. Weick and Martin (2006) suggest that independent inventors should engage with the growing support structure and resource pool accessible via the Internet, as a means of ensuring they pay closer attention to financial and market factors during the develop­ment and commercialisation phase.

In identifying the types of advice, support and guidance required to negotiate the new product introduction process, Cooper and Kleinschmidt

(2007) suggest that, at company level at least, market and technical assessments and clear product definition are essential to success. This is reinforced by Lynn et al., (1999) who emphasise the need for a clear appreciation of the market and it dynamic characteristics, if successful negotia­tion of the new product introduction process is to be achieved.

4. Timing of Approach

In addition to the time commitment allocated to the invention process, Mayer (2005) suggests that the innovations developed by independent inventors are susceptible to the issue of timing. Innovations that are ahead of their time are likely to suffer at the hands of conservative or uncon­vinced investors or potential licensees, whilst those innovations that are too late are unlikely to appeal to potential investors or licensees. Indeed, Sun and Wing (2005) in their review of critical success factors for new product development in the Hong Kong toy industry identified the need to make innovations accessible to customers at the right time.

With regard to timing, independent inventors would appear to have a more difficult job satisfy­ing the criteria than commercial inventors. Whilst independent inventors may have difficulty in knowing what the current state of technological development is in an industry and the types of new innovations that are being sought, particularly given that they are by definition inventing outside of a corporate structure; commercial inventors may have cues as to what type of innovations are required and will almost certainly be aware of the current state of technological development in their industry much of which development is hidden.

5. Access to Resources

The capacity for an independent inventor to commercialise their innovation appears to be influenced by the resources they have available to them. From a financial perspective, Whalley (1991) claims that the majority of independent inventors are reliant upon their own personal funds or the financial support of their family to finance the development and commercialisation of their innovations.

Access to inventive space, raw materials and appropriate tools is also identified by Whalley (1991) as an important resource requirement. This would appear to be particularly appropriate when considering physical, mechanical innovations, where the absence of these resources and manu­facturing equipment may prevent the invention being developed (Whalley, 1991).

Indeed, evidence at company level suggests that a lack of resources is the scourge of new product introduction projects and often results in inadequately executed commercialisation attempts (Cooper and Kleinschmidt, 2007)

6. Access to Formal and Informal Social Support Networks

If innovation networks theory is applied at in­dependent inventor level then those individuals with enhanced network linkages would appear to benefit, both prior to invention conceptualisation and during the new product introduction process. In the first instance, the act ofinnovation arguably occurs as the result of knowledge being trans­ferred or shared through networks, independent of spatial definitions, whereby said knowledge is either utilised in its original form or reapplied in a new innovative way (Coe & Bunnell, 2003). As such, independent inventors that interact with corporations: businesses, universities, government and research institutes; those that can strike up social relationships with knowledgeable individu­als; and those that access and utilise knowledge from published sources, such as patent databases, newspapers, conference papers and academic journals should be better placed to generate in­novative ideas in the first place (Coe & Bunnell, 2003 p.452).

Post innovation origination, Whalley (1991) proposes that the effectiveness of independent inventors is influenced by the degree of social support they receive; partially because of their need for feedback on their inventions and social confirmation that what they are doing is useful. In this respect, the role of family and friends in providing a social support network can be viewed as essential (Whalley, 1991). Interestingly, Whal­ley (1991) suggests that, family and friends aside, individual inventors lack the mutual support groups that can be found in other creative disci­plines. Whilst this was perhaps a valid assertion to make in 1991, a simple Google Search ofthe term “UK Inventor Clubs” yields a list of organisations in East London, Wessex, Birmingham, London, Malvern, Sheffield, the Black Country, Kingston and Liverpool, which certainly points to this issue being addressed, although not resolved. Indeed, Von Hippel (2005) argues that the trend towards making innovation more democratic, through mechanisms such as open innovation, has resulted in a rapid increase in the number of support com­munities, which should positively influence the ability of independent inventors to develop com­mercially successful innovations.

Interestingly, the work of Lettl et al.,(2009) points to the fact that independent inventors who actively engage with social support networks and communities are more able to access resources that are usually reserved for corporate inventors. Indeed, the Black Country Inventors Club in the UK is a good example of this, as it allows a group of independent inventors to operate as a collective with enough critical mass to enlist the assistance of an Intellectual Property Rights specialist at favourable rates.

7. Ability to Adopt a Credible Business Persona

A potentially significant obstacle for indepen­dent inventors to overcome, when attempting to commercialise their innovation, is the negative perception held by industry and potential inves­tors. Parker et al. (1996 p.7) makes the following statement: “The independent inventor has often been portrayed as something of a mad scientist - type individual or an uneducated dreamer in search of the holy-grail. The result of this perception is that the independent inventor no longer is viewed as a serious source of product innovation.”

Whalley (1991 p.225) suggests that manufac­turers, potential licensees in many cases, are all too willing to believe the negative image of inventors as “.odd, even crazy.” A view which is cor­roborated when inventors not only lack business expertise, but perhaps more importantly, do not adopt accepted business conventions and “.do not want to play by the rules that manufacturers think are appropriate.” (Whalley, 1991, p.225). Whalley (1991) suggests that this may not be intentionally contrary behaviour on the part of independent inventors, simply the result of many years of segregation from the commercial world of inventing and the socially accepted norms that are associated with it. Although speculative at this point, it would appear that the more capable an independent inventor is at adopting appropriate business etiquette, speaking the language of busi­ness, using the correct terminology and following modern business practice, the greater the potential for commercial success.

If we are to make the assertion that indepen­dent inventors should behave in a more business like fashion when presenting their innovation to potential licensees then extant best practice literature surrounding successful new product introduction becomes pertinent. At a basic level there is a need for good communication skills, indeed Lester (1998) highlights the ability to effectively communicate information, regarding the product and associated opportunity, to man­agement is a critical element of successful new product introduction. In addition, Cooper and Kleinschmidt (2007), in their paper on critical success factors for businesses introducing new products, identify a number of constructs under their “A high-quality new product process” Criti­cal Success Factor that are potentially valuable to this research inquiry. Firstly they suggest that assessments are made ofthe technical and market potential for the proposed innovation, prior to its development. These assessments may move from preliminary overviews of potential into in­creasingly detailed insights. Key components in these assessments, include: market research with potential end-users focussing on the identifica­tion of customer needs, desires and requirement; assessment of technical requirements: possible manufacturing methods, technical viability of proposition, costs associated with production, timescale and resource requirements; analysis of the financial case at different levels of sensitivity (Cooper & Kleinschmidt, 2007)

In addition to providing documented evidence ofmarket and technical assessments ofthe innova­tion, Cooper and Kleinschmidt (2007 p. 7) also identify the importance of being able to precisely define key aspects of the business case, namely: “.the product - its target market; the concept, benefits and positioning; and its requirements, features and specs... ’’Although purely conj ecture at this point, it would appear that independent inventors who have a working knowledge of the early stages of the new product introduction pro­cesses that businesses are accustomed to will be able to talk about their project and the introduction process, with potential licensees, in terms they are familiar with. As such they may be viewed as more credible.

8. Willingness to Share Information

The ability to share information concerning an innovation may aid the early stages of the devel­opment. At a more advanced stage, the sharing of information is critical to obtaining investment in the innovation, whether to enable a new busi­ness to be formed or at the point of negotiating a licensing agreement or outright sale of the intel­lectual property rights.

The problem is that independent inventors often feel unable to share information concerning their innovation. Whalley (1991) suggests that the legislation governing intellectual property protection acts as a constraint, hampering the independent inventor’s ability to disclose details of their innovation. This is presumably a refer­ence to the notion that in order to obtain patent protection the intellectual property behind an idea cannot be in the public domain.

In addition to the restricting force of intellectual property legislation (Whalley, 1991), the degree of trust between the independent inventor and the third party is seemingly central to the prospect of invention commercialisation. Mayer (2005 p.115) notes that: “Inventors have developed a mistrust towards manufacturers and innovation professionals partly because of bad experiences with the world of business professionals and also fraudulent support services.”

9. Ability to Identify and Gain Access to Potential Commercial Partners

Appropriate selection of commercial partners is by no means an easy task. Firstly, businesses often do not welcome new ideas, regardless of their origin (Whalley, 1991) and those that are open to external ideas will not deal with independent inventors because of the associated costs of administering the enquiries when compared to the probability of successfully launching and generating profit from an innovation brought into the company via this source (Whalley, 1991).

Those independent inventors that are able to identify a commercial partner that has access to manufacturing methods appropriate to the require­ments of the innovation; is able to provide a route to market that allows penetration of domestic and international markets (Mayer, 2005) and then is able to identify and gain access to key decision makers in that organisation are likely to fare well commercially.

Interestingly, Kotabe et al, (2007) note companies are increasingly moving away from centralised research and development decisions towards a decentralised approach. From a UK independent inventor perspective this may be critical, since it would theoretically provide access to a larger base of potential licensees.

10. Ability to Select an Appropriate Commercialisation Path

Mayer (2005, p.114) points to the fact that: “Those inventors, who choose to commercialise their inventions on their own, in the form of a start-up company, face the full complexity of the business world. Starting up a business is a challenging endeavour requiring different skills at different times.” This appears to imply that the independent inventor needs to carefully align his or her skills set and willingness to commit time against the requirements for each of the potential commercialisation paths open to them. Those that do this most successfully would appear to stand a better chance of realising commercial success.

11. Alignment of Inventor and Corporate Objectives

The degree to which the independent inventor and commercial partner have aligned commercial obj ectives is a potentially important success factor. Whalley (1991) notes that independent inventors and businesses often have divergent opinions con­cerning commercialisation and that, for example, whilst a business may be heavily biased towards income generation, income generation may not be central to the wishes of the independent inventor.

With regard to expectations over the financial rewards for the innovative endeavour, independent inventors need to have some appreciation that the spectre of failure looms large over potential licensees and as such independent inventors should be modest in their expectations over the licence fee, especially since a modest fee reduces the probability that the potential licensee will seek to challenge or infringe upon the patent (Bakos and Nowotarski, 2003).

12. Experience of the Inventor

The extant literature points to the fact that inde­pendent inventors with greater experience of the development and commercialisation of innova­tions are more likely to have commercial success than inexperienced inventors. Whilst Eakin and Martin (2006) suggest that experienced inventors are more likely to have access to the informal networks that enable commercialisation and expe - rience of attempting to take a previous product to market is beneficial in later attempts, Von Hippel

(1988) and Henderson and Clark (1990) make the assertion that inventors with direct experience of the industry in which they are inventing in are more likely to achieve commercialisation.

The effect of previous experience is also evident when consideration is given to new prod­uct introduction at company level. Lynn et al,

(1999) , for example, identify the need for relevant experience and the ability to learn lessons from previous projects as fundamental to new product introduction success.

In the US Insurance industry, 75% of new patents emanate from independent inventors with the vast proportion specialists in that field: Actuar­ies, underwriters, and programmers (Bakos and Nowotarski, 2003). Indeed, Lettl et al. (2009) in their study of 1681, medical equipment, patent families from the Derwent World Patent Index filed between 1980 and 2005; found evidence that focussing inventive efforts in an industry where the independent inventor has some specialist knowledge, rather than inventing for disparate industries, is very beneficial to the prospect of an impactful technology being developed. Whilst not all impactful technologies go on to become a commercial success there is certainly grounds to argue that commercial success appears more probable in this instance.


This chapter proposes 12 preliminary critical success factors that we anticipate will enhance the prospect of independent inventors achieving commercial success and becoming more effective suppliers of new products to businesses, via an Open Innovation model.

We have amalgamated the current body of academic literature surrounding independent inventors and new product introduction in order to identify these factors. At this stage, no critical success factors are eliminated.

The following chapter will take the preliminary critical success factors proposed in this chapter and utilise them as priori constructs (Eisenhardt, 1989) as evidence is sought through case study for their presence or non-presence in a practical context.

The themes of technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and organizing

About the Contributors

Farley S. Nobre (PhD, MSc, BSc) is Professor at the School of Management of Federal University of Parana, Brazil. His research interests include organizations, knowledge management systems, innova­tion and sustainability. …

The Roles of Cognitive Machines in Customer — Centric Organizations: Towards Innovations in Computational Organizational Management Networks

Farley Simon Nobre Federal University of Parana, Brazil ABSTRACT This chapter proposes innovative features of future industrial organizations in order to provide them with the capabilities to manage high levels …

Tools That Drive Innovation: The Role of Information Systems in Innovative Organizations

Jason G. Caudill Carson-Newman College, USA ABSTRACT The purpose of this chapter is to examine computer technology as a tool to support innovation and innovative processes. The primary problem that …

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