The scale of product innovation in the household sector

Recall that in the producer innovation paradigm, consumers are not expected to innovate—they are expected to consume. However, quite contrary to this conventional assumption, the data my colleagues and I collected found that 24.4 million people had developed or modified products for their own use in just the six countries surveyed to date (table 2.1). This quite large number is likely to be a very conservative measure of total household sector innovation development activities. As I noted above, the national six surveys included only product innovations developed for personal or family use. Service and process development activities in the household sector were not included, and are likely to also be of significant scale when measured.

Table 2.1

Fraction of individuals developing products for their own use in six countries.

UK (n = 1,173)

US (n = 1,992)

Japan (n = 2,000)

Finland (n = 993)

Canada (n = 2,021)

S. Korea (n = 10,821)

Percentage of consumer innovators in the population aged 18 and

overa

6.1%

5.2%

3.7%

5.4%b

5.6%

1.5%

Number of

2.9

16.0

4.7

0.17

1.6

0.54

consumer innovators aged 18 and

overa

million

million

million

millionb

million

million

a. In all six surveys individuals under age 18 were excluded due to youth privacy considerations.

b. In Finland, the age range was 18-65.

The scope of consumer product innovation

The products developed by consumers addressed a wide range of household sector activities (table 2.2). Areas showing high levels of innovation mapped well upon major categories of unpaid time activities reported by consumers. For example, in the United Kingdom, sports, gardening, household chores, caring for children, and using computers were significant activities (Lader, Short, and Gershuny 2006).

A few brief descriptions of innovations reported by respondents for each of the innovation categories listed in table 2.2 will illustrate both the nature and the broad scope of product development by consumers (table 2.3).

 
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