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The structural characteristics of innovation ecosystem: a fashion case

Shuyu Lin (Fashion Business School, University of the Arts London, London, UK)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Article publication date: 27 April 2018

Issue publication date: 3 August 2018




The purpose of this paper is to provide empirical evidence of open innovation mechanism specific to aesthetic innovation. Prior research have drawn its research attention to technological innovation and focussed on the biopharmaceutical and technological sectors as the main research contexts. Thus, to gain a wider picture of the structural characteristics of innovation ecosystem, this paper aims to complement the existing technological-centred literature and provides understanding of aesthetic innovation by focussing on exploring the role of actors and intermediaries in either facilitating or inhibiting innovation in the creative sector.


This is an exploratory study and the qualitative method was employed. With aim to explore aesthetic innovation in the creative sector, this research grounded its context in the UK designer fashion sector, which is part of the creative industries. Data were collected through a series of semi-structured interviews with respondents being purposely selected so as to ensure representativeness. A wider range of participants within the designer fashion sector was covered. Such multiple-sourced data collection approach allowed this research to triangulate data so that research trustworthiness was enhanced.


The result suggests the role of a broker in beyond traditionally facilitating knowledge exchange. This paper provides empirical evidence regarding the critical role of a broker in shaping the open innovation mechanism when it comes to aesthetic innovation. A broker in fact occupies a strategic position that allows it to negotiate relationships among the connected organisations and thus to govern the interaction mechanism of the innovation ecosystem as a whole. Given the empowered broker in such setting, the relationship between innovation creators and innovation seekers is controlled by a broker, which leads to risk that an innovation creator may not fully appropriate the value that it creates.

Research limitations/implications

The main limitation of this study is its specific context, that is, the UK designer fashion industry. Such focus limits the scope of generalisation particularly its application to the entire creative sector. Thus, it is suggested that future research may consider to explore other creative industries so that the understanding of the open innovation mechanism from a structural perspective applied to aesthetic innovation can be enhanced.


This paper outlines the structural mechanism of open innovation applied to aesthetic innovation. The result contributes to the literature by complementing the findings derived from technology-centred research. Also, empirical evidence of this study is particularly of value to policy makers in the aspect of creative sector development. The suggested implications provide strategies of innovation ecosystem that could benefit individual actors involved in this open innovation setting and ensure prosper of the sector as a whole.



Lin, S. (2018), "The structural characteristics of innovation ecosystem: a fashion case", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 620-635.



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