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Reverse innovation: a systematic literature review

Marine Hadengue (Department of Mathematics and Industrial Engineering, Polytechnique Montreal, Montreal, Canada)
Nathalie de Marcellis-Warin (Department of Mathematics and Industrial Engineering, Polytechnique Montreal, Montreal, Canada) (Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Thierry Warin (Department of International Business, HEC Montreal, Montreal, Canada)

International Journal of Emerging Markets

ISSN: 1746-8809

Article publication date: 18 April 2017




Interest in reverse innovation (RI) is increasing. According to the authors’ review, more than 350 reliable sources (scientific publications, academic books and working papers) examine or at least discuss the concept. As RI gains popularity among academic authors, some discrepancies have started to appear. This wealth of publications could impact prior advancements related to understanding of the phenomenon. The purpose of this paper is to decrease fragmentation and focus on identifying and understanding RI.


A systematic review of RI was conducted. The review conformed to a rigorous set of core principles: it was systematic (organized according to a method designed to address the review questions), transparent (explicitly stated), reproducible and updatable, and synthesized (summarized the evidence relating to the review question).


This systematic review provides an improved theoretical and practical framework for the concept of RI. In terms of theory, the authors have demonstrated that the idea behind the concept is not entirely new. A consensus on the definition of RI is not reached in the literature, and descriptions in organizational theory contexts are sometimes misleading. The authors analyzed all the various definitions provided in the literature. From a practical point of view, the authors have explained the academic interest in RI in relation to organizational strategy, in particular the context in which strategies are adopted. The concept of RI has significant managerial implications, and the authors have proposed a conceptual framework to help managers understand and grasp the implications of RI. Finally, the authors have provided suggestions for future research on RI.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first exhaustive literature review on RI.



The authors would like to thank the anonymous referees for their useful comments on this paper. The authors would also like to extend the thanks to the Academy of International Business (South East Chapter) 2015’s participants for their constructive comments. Eventually, the authors would like to thank the research center CIRANO ( and the GMT Research Group (Polytechnique Montreal) for their support. The authors also thank the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for its financial support. The usual caveats apply.


Hadengue, M., de Marcellis-Warin, N. and Warin, T. (2017), "Reverse innovation: a systematic literature review", International Journal of Emerging Markets, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 142-182.



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