• innovation;
  • network structure;
  • small-world;
  • efficiency

This article investigates the impact of network structure on innovation efficiency by establishing a simulation model of innovation process in the context of innovation networks. The results indicate that short path lengths between vertices are conductive to high efficiency of explorative innovations, dense clusters are conductive to high efficiency of exploitative innovations, and high small-worldness is conductive to high efficiency of the hybrid of these two innovations. Moreover, we discussed the reason of the results and give some suggestions to innovators and innovation policy makers. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Complexity 21: 111–122, 2015