The entrepreneurial role of innovative users

Christopher Lettl (Berlin University of Technology, Berlin, Germany)
Hans Georg Gemünden (Berlin University of Technology, Berlin, Germany)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Publication date: 1 December 2005



To provide first insights into under which conditions innovative users start entrepreneurial activities and finally become manufacturers themselves.


Concrete innovation projects were chosen as the unit of analysis and a multi‐case comparison methodology was applied. In‐depth interviews on the basis of a semi‐structured interview guideline were conducted. Furthermore, archival data were used. A rigorous content analysis framework was applied to analyse the collected data.


Those users that were the original investors in the innovations established and organized the required innovation networks. A high problem pressure, an active role of users in the idea generation phase, a high degree of innovativeness of the prospective product, and missing competencies as well as missing resources explain the entrepreneurial role of users.

Research limitations/implications

For the empirical study the focus was on the industry of medical equipment technology. This raises questions with respect to the generalizability of the results. Further research in other industries is needed to cross‐validate the results.

Practical implications

One important implication for corporate practice is to systematically identify and leverage entrepreneurial users for their innovation work. Thus, parts of the R&D and marketing function can be outsourced.


A new role for users in the innovation process is identified and an explanatory framework provided to better understand antecedents of this phenomenon.



Lettl, C. and Georg Gemünden, H. (2005), "The entrepreneurial role of innovative users", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 20 No. 7, pp. 339-346.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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