Several interpretations converge in defining innovation networks as formed by heterogeneous actors, mainly identified in universities, research centers, and business companies. While the issue of actors' heterogeneity has generated active debate in strategy and organization studies, there has been little discussion so far in exploring the role of this diversity in innovation networks. In this paper we trace the need for more research on the role that actors' heterogeneity plays in the interaction processes for the development of collaborative innovation, as well as for the outcomes deriving from it. Drawn from previous literature, we identify six attributes of actors' heterogeneity: goals, knowledge bases, capabilities and competences, perceptions, power and position, cultures. This paper is aimed at pursuing issues in need of further investigation: 1. how the interplay of diverse actors' attributes shapes the interaction process in the development of collaborative innovation; 2. if and how combinations of their attributes are more likely to generate certain consequences in interaction; and 3. the degree to which heterogeneity is preferable to homogeneity for the effectiveness of the innovation network. In a recursive relationship, we also call for more research on the mechanisms that lead actors' attributes to change as an effect of interaction as well as on the interaction capabilities actors apply to manage heterogeneity and thus reach compatibility.
- Innovation networks