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New CERN journal to investigate the processes that underpin innovation

The first edition of CERN’s Journal of Experimental Innovation, an open access publication looking at how to direct innovation, is published on Friday. Editor-in-chief Saku Mäkinen outlines its scope

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The CERN IdeaSquare Journal of Experimental Innovation, an open access, peer-reviewed, journal covering empirical research on the practice of strategic technology and innovation management, launches on Friday.

The online journal, which is the brainchild of CERN’s open innovation hub IdeaSquare, will publish research into how experimentation leads to innovation.

Submissions are welcome from across disciplines. If there is one word that sums up the journal’s approach, it is multidisciplinary, said Saku Mäkinen, vice dean for research at Tampere University of Technology, and the journal’s editor in chief.

“The word experimental is in the title, because we want to know how new types of organisation deliver new ways of doing things,” Mäkinen said. “The process is just as important as the products.”

Process is broadly defined as the, “What, how, why, when, and where innovations are created.”

The launch issue features an overview of the nature and role of experimentation in the creation, development and management of innovation. The guest editors for the first issue include Roberto Verganti, ‎professor of leadership and lnnovation at Politecnico di Milano; Fredrik Hacklin, chair of entrepreneurship at ETH Zurich; and Philipp Tuertscher, associate professor of technology and innovation at VU University Amsterdam.  

The journal’s scope goes beyond narrow academic questions to case studies of organisational processes that work and those that do not.  

As one example, Mäkinen suggests the issue of how a shake-up of working methods in a mid-sized manufacturing firm affects middle management and employees. “Experimentation could have huge impact on how a company learns and uses new ways work is organised,” he said.

Another case might be to investigate how students and faculty at a university respond to new forms of learning. “Universities are already being fully disrupted,” said Mäkinen. “Students in the future will probably mostly go online rather than to a lecture hall, and the job of the professor will transform into something completely different, closer to coaching. We would like to understand what this means for education.”

Meanwhile, policymakers - a group Mäkinen hopes will be amongst the readers of the journal – are trying to grapple with start-ups like Uber and Airbnb, both high-growth companies that are upending traditional transport and hotel industry laws.

“The question regulators need to answer is what the heck do we do with these new companies so as to increase societal good at large? How do we balance future and current societal rules and operations? We hope these policy experiments can be explored in our journal.”

Mäkinen promises the journal will deliver innovation of its own, with quick turn-around times for submitted papers. “We want fast publishing with peer review that can be done in one or two months max,” he said. “This way we can deliver contemporary results in an accessible format for readers.”

For IdeaSquare the journal is a natural progression. “We are enthusiastic about experimenting and this journal is an experiment in itself,” said Markus Nordberg, head of resources development at CERN and co-founder of IdeaSquare.

Alongside Mäkinen, the permanent editorial team is comprised of Martin Steinert, an engineering professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Matteo Vignoli, assistant professor at University of Modena and Reggio Emilia; Julian Birkinshaw, professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at London Business School; Markus Nordberg; and Valeria Brancolini, a managing director at CERN.

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Related subjects: Innovation, CERN