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The socio-technical networks of technology users' innovation in New Zealand: a fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis

Lincoln University. Agricultural Economics Research Unit.
Publication Date
  • Qca
  • Fuzzy Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis
  • Invention
  • Innovation
  • Technology Users
  • Networks
  • Social Capital
  • New Zealand
  • Economics
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


Technological innovation by the actual users of technologies is receiving more attention, and deservedly so, as these users combine their passions and expertise into improving the technologies which they employ in their personal and professional lives. This report documents technology users??? innovation (TUI) as an important source of inventions which can become successful commercial innovations. Using a range of TUI case studies in the farming, building and energy sectors, we utilise fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) to describe configurations of participation in various network configurations that result in innovation success and failure. Data are drawn from extended interviews with over 55 inventors and innovators, leading to 43 final case studies set against a broader analysis of New Zealand???s innovation policies and practice. The method led to the identification of five key elements within the socio-technical networks of innovation: financial capital, government support, intellectual property (IP), manufacturing, and other business activities. Results show the key configurations to innovation success involve inventors who were: ??? Well financed, not undertaking significant manufacturing, holding relevant IP; or, ??? Well financed, engaged in other businesses, again with relevant IP. The most common configurations leading to innovation failure were: ??? Poorly financed, lacking government support, not engaged in other business activities, and lacking IP; or, ??? Well financed, lacking government support, engaged in other businesses, undertaking significant manufacturing, and lacking IP. The results were used to develop a model of TUI which shows how innovation is the product of both individual inventive ability and the ability to selectively participate in the relevant socio-technical networks within which the invention evolves into an innovation. A significant resource on which these innovators draw is best understood as social capital, comprising family farm(s) and firm(s), family members, and peers. The model highlights the potential complexity of the TUI networks and shows how successful innovation requires the release of an often intensely personal technology and through the proactive management of the key factors. The results also indicate that New Zealand???s innovation governance could be improved by policy which better supports TUI, specifically by increasing and facilitating the availability of financial capital and IP protection, expanding and supporting international collaboration (especially in offshore manufacturing), and addressing ethics and trust in business. Wider societal issues also constrain innovation in New Zealand. These issues would be mitigated by an increase in the technological literacy of New Zealand society as well as a wider and deeper appreciation of the necessity and difficulty of innovation, and the personal and economic rewards when it succeeds. While much of the success of local TUI stems from the character of New Zealanders, their knowledge and their passions, that success would be enhanced by improving the connectivity of the New Zealand innovation system as a whole, and the connectivity of this system globally.

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