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What makes an “innovation champion”?

Natalya Sergeeva (Bartlett School of Construction & Project Management, University College London, London, UK)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Article publication date: 11 January 2016




The purpose of this paper is to explore how an “innovation champion” identity is formulated in the context of UK construction sector. A conceptual model of “innovation champion” themes is derived from the literature on social identity and then validated through empirical research.


In total, 30 semi-structured interviews have been conducted with UK construction sector practitioners. The sample was composed active participants within the Constructing Excellence – the UK construction sector’s network-type organisation for driving innovation.


Practitioners socially constructed “innovation champion” identities through narratives about “self” or others. While some practitioners saw themselves as “innovation champions”, many others recognised CEOs as such. “Innovation champions” are commonly recognised as key individuals who promote innovations across businesses.

Practical implications

Socially constructed identities are seen important to strategic decisions and future actions. The potential contribution to practice is to help current and new generations of practitioners to learn about how to be or become “innovation champions”.

Social implications

The concept of social identity presents opportunities to enrich our understanding of the “innovation champion” label can stimulate people’s reflections on who they are and what they do.


The present paper has extended upon prior research and theory by exploring the ways practitioners perceive themselves or others as “innovation champions”. While this research has focused on the UK construction sector, the findings are potentially useful for other sectors where “innovation champion” labels are commonly used.



Sergeeva, N. (2016), "What makes an “innovation champion”?", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 72-89.



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