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Special Virtual Issue on the Management of the Front End of Innovation in JPIM

Special Virtual Issue proposal for the Journal of Product Innovation Management and the corresponding Introductory article entitled “Managing the Front-End of Innovation – Less Fuzzy, Yet Still Not Fully Understood” by Katrin Eling and Cornelius Herstatt (TU Hamburg-Harburg) has been accepted for publication (planned for the end of 2017).

The relevance of the front-end of innovation (FEI) for the success of new product development (NPD) has been recognized already 30 years ago by Cooper and Kleinschmidt (1987). Many later studies have supported this early finding, including a recent meta-study (Evanschitzky, Eisend, Calantone, and Jiang, 2012), and thus drawn attention to the need to successfully manage this important NPD phase. Therefore, it is not surprising that 85 studies on the management of the FEI have been published in the Journal of Product Innovation Management (JPIM) since the publication of the first JPIM issue in 1984.

While delivering a lot of important knowledge, these studies have also led to a certain fuzziness of the research topic. On the one hand, many different terms have been used to describe the subject of investigation, such as “front end (of innovation)”, “idea stage”, “discovery stage”, “pre-development stage/tasks”, “fuzzy front-end”, or simply “the early stage(s)”. On the other hand, the research topic consists of several independent-appearing themes because numerous studies do not focus on the FEI as a whole, but only on one of the different activities in the FEI (e.g., opportunity identification, ideation, concept development, or idea or concept evaluation and testing).

This virtual issue has thus been created with two objectives in mind. The first objective is to make a start in reducing the fuzziness that the research on FEI management entails by providing an overview of what is known about FEI management and to show how independent streams at least in appearance are actually linked. Second, we aim to encourage future research on this important research topic because, although a lot is already known, there are still significant gaps in the research on successful FEI management.

With “front-end of innovation” this virtual issue refers to the very first phase of the NPD process that starts with the discovery of an opportunity or a raw idea for product innovation and ends when the GO-decision is made to developing a new product, so that the actual development can start and significant resources are committed (Eling, Griffin, and Langerak, 2014; Van Oorschot, Eling, and Langerak, 2017). This means that the FEI consists of activities, such as: opportunity/problem identification, analysis and matching; market and technology analysis; idea generation, evaluation and screening; concept development, evaluation and testing; requirement definition; and project planning and risk analysis (Khurana and Rosenthal, 1998; Reid and de Brentani, 2004).

This editorial positions 10 previously published articles in an overview of the past 32 years of research conducted in the JPIM community on FEI management. In this regard, eight research themes of FEI management have been distinguished for which one (and sometime more) selected article(s) will be representative. Below the article selection method for this virtual issue will be laid out. Afterwards we summarize and reflect on the research on FEI management within the eight research themes and present opportunities for future research within and across the themes.




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