Next Steps for Free Innovation Research and Practice

Free innovation is, as we have seen, an important and growing "grassroots” innovation process in the household sector of national economies. Free from compensated transactions, it is fundamentally simpler than producer innovation. In this concluding chapter, I propose some specific next steps for those interested in further work on the theory, the policy, and the practice of free innovation. Of course my list of suggestions is simply that: others will certainly have many other excellent ideas.

Proposed Next Steps

As we have seen in this book, the free innovation paradigm provides a novel and generative framework for understanding innovation in the household sector. It, together with the producer innovation paradigm, offers novel and expanded space for innovation theory development, empirical research, policymaking, and practice. In the sections that follow, I discuss some issues and possible new lines of inquiry in each of these domains. In addition, with respect to valuable next steps, readers should note that research on all aspects of the free innovation paradigm is at an early stage. They should therefore consider the theoretical and empirical work presented in each of the preceding chapters as both inviting and requiring further development.

I begin by comparing the research lenses offered by the concepts of free innovation, user innovation, peer production, and open innovation. Researchers of course have a choice of conceptual lenses for their studies, with each most suited to some topics and styles of inquiry. I then focus in on issues and questions related to free innovation only. I begin by proposing steps to improve the measurement of free innovation, a matter that is very important to further progress. I next suggest steps to incorporate free innovation into microeconomic theory, and also into important components of innovation policy. Then, I suggest how the free innovation paradigm can help us to understand the economics of both open source producer innovation activities, and household sector creative activities beyond innovation, such as "user-generated content” ranging from fan fiction to contributions to Wikipedia.

Finally, I conclude the book by again proposing that it will be very important to seek to understand free innovation and the free innovation paradigm more deeply via further research. Free innovation offers the promise of empowering all of us in the "household sector”— simultaneously enriching our individual lives, increasing social welfare, and improving national economies.

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