What makes hubs different is that they have the explicit mission to foster innovation by promoting learning and the sharing of ideas.
To this end, hubs bet on collaborative innovation and community, as well as on openness and diversity.
At the same time, innovation hubs have largely remained under the radar of mainstream innovation management debate and practice.
So what are ‘innovation hubs’, and which ones of their features are worthwhile to consider for adaptation to other innovation contexts?
If you live in a major city or a national capital, try this exercise: Google the words “innovation hub” and the name of your metropolis, and scroll through the first results page.
As one might expect, you will probably come across a news article or blog post that talks about your city’s or region’s innovation landscape as a whole, using the common broad understanding of an innovation hub as a wider geography (like Silicon Valley).
The organisation defines itself: as “part innovation lab, part business incubator, and part community centre” (impacthub.net).Setting up shop in hip, vibrant, up-and-coming urban neighbourhoods makes most hubs more attractive for their target groups and supports their convening function.A hub would usually recruit a ‘community manager’, ‘curator’ or ‘host’ to act as a broker in the network of members and other stakeholders, encourage new connections, manage the office, organise events and generally take care of the smooth functioning of the community.If this is indeed the outcome of your web search, you are witnessing the recent but speedy rise of a new type of organisation: the innovation hub.From tens of Impact Hubs in major cities around the world (including London, New York and Singapore), through about 100 technology innovation hubs in Africa, to burgeoning social innovation hubs in China, the phenomenon is rapidly expanding, taking the grassroots entrepreneurship and innovation scene by storm.