Innovation Intermediaries from the Third to the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Department of Economics and Business University of Padova Italy
School of Business, Economics and Informatics, Birkbeck College, University of London, United Kingdom
Department of Economics, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy
Intermediary organisations that support firm-level and collaborative innovation, often called knowledge or innovation intermediaries, have gained increasing prominence in knowledge-intensive economies. The label “intermediaries” is not meant to be reductive. Intermediaries do not merely offer matchmaking services, but provide a wide range of knowledge-intensive services including, among others, knowledge and technology mapping, technical assistance in R&D projects, dissemination and commercialisation of research results, support for universityindustry collaborations (Bessant and Rush, 1995; Lynn et al, 1996; Hargadon and Sutton, 1997; Den Hertog, 2000; Howells, 2006; Doganova, 2013). Most importantly, they are innovation catalysers, as they “mobilise, reframe and structure expertise and policy imperatives” (Meyer and Kearnes, 2013, p423). Intermediaries are not third parties, but they are often an integral part of innovation processes. While typical intermediaries include knowledgeintensive business services providers, technopoles, technology transfer agencies, science parks and incubators, a wide range of organisations can provide at least some intermediary functions (Howells, 2006; Caloffi et al, 2015a). We review the features and role of innovation intermediaries, and focus on the challenges involved in the design of innovation intermediaries that can appropriately support the ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution.