Mapping diffusion intermediaries: conceptualization and empirical application to the case of renewable energy technology in Sweden
Conference contribution, 2016
The innovation literature has acknowledged that intermediary actors of different types can play an important role for innovation by facilitating knowledge development and diffusion, technology transfer and market formation. So far, most studies have focused on the development of new technologies, especially in the context of open innovation, whereas the characteristics and roles of intermediaries in the diffusion of innovations is largely unexplored. The purpose of this paper is to define and operationalize the concept of ‘diffusion intermediaries’ and to map such intermediaries involved in the field of renewable energy technologies (RETs) in Sweden. Using data from the official firm registry, four main types of formal diffusion intermediaries (dedicated, unspecialized, vertically integrated and diversified) and three main categories of intermediation activities (consulting, import/sales and project development) are identified. The analysis shows that the majority of the diffusion intermediaries are not exclusively involved in intermediation activities and that a substantial share is involved only in import and sales. This raises some questions with regard to the definition of the intermediary concept. More precisely, the active involvement in the adoption process is suggested to be a key criterion to distinguish between diffusion intermediaries and distribution intermediaries. The analysis also shows that diffusion intermediation has a technology-specific component. More studies are, however, needed to further distinguish between different types of diffusion intermediaries in a wider set of empirical settings and to understand the role they play for adoption.