Reconceptualising innovation failure

David Baxter*, Paul Trott, Paul Ellwood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This study examines the concept of innovation failure. It is a problematic subject without an accepted definition. For different stakeholders the same innovation can be both a success and a failure at the same time. The academic literature has concentrated on the determinants of innovation success. Yet, there is a notable lack of academic literature that deals with innovation failure as a topic in its own right. As a result, there is limited attention to, and little consensus on, the meaning of innovation failure. Existing definitions imply a highly contingent conceptualisation of innovation failure informed by the different theoretical framings and disciplinary interests of the researchers. We adopt a systematic literature review methodology that examines the concept of innovation failure at the level of the firm and from an innovation management perspective. The findings of this review are based on a total of 69 peer-reviewed articles from 1977 to 2021. We find the concept is widely used yet poorly defined and frequently lacks any theoretical underpinning. By means of a theory-building inductive synthesis our findings contribute to research by reconceptualising the concept of innovation failure along three processual dimensions: failure-as-experimentation; −judgement and -event.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104811
Number of pages14
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number7
Early online date25 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • Innovation failure
  • Systematic literature review

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