Innovation Types and Network Relationships


  • Jukka Partanen,

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    • Jukka Partanen PhD (Econ), is a postdoctoral researcher at Aalto University, School of Economics (Department of Marketing). He has published his recent work in the Industrial Marketing Management. His research interests are SME networks and alliances, high-growth firms, industrial service business, and innovation.
  • Sylvie K. Chetty,

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    • Sylvie K. Chetty is a Professor of Marketing at Massey University and Research Associate in the Department of Business Studies, Uppsala University in Sweden. She has published several articles in journals such as Journal of International Business Studies, Regional Studies, European Journal of Marketing, Journal of International Marketing, International Business Review, International Marketing Review, and International Small Business Journal. Her research focus is on internationalization, business networks, industry clusters, and innovation.
  • Arto Rajala

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    • Arto Rajala, PhD (Econ), is a Research Director at Aalto University, School of Economics (Department of Marketing). He has published articles in Industrial Marketing Management, Journal of Business Research, International Journal of Technology Management, and International Journal of Revenue Management. His current research is focused on business networks, business marketing, and business-to-business service development.

  • We would like to thank Ulf Holm and Ivo Zander from Uppsala University, Sweden for their comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. We are also grateful to the two anonymous reviewers and the editor Sara Carter for their insightful comments. We appreciate the financial support from the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation for the Tekes/GrowthNet project.


We examine network relationships, particularly the type and strength of these relationships and how firms use them in order to commercialize different types of innovations. We conduct an in-depth case study of four small firms to provide insight on how and why a portfolio of network relationships (e.g., suppliers, distributors, customers, and research institutes) helps small new innovative firms to gain resources. We develop a framework of four innovation types and expand on how successful commercialization for each innovation type requires certain types and strength of relationships. Both types (systemic and autonomous) of radical innovations require strong collaborative ties with customers, whereas incremental innovations are commercialized through different types of downstream networks.