Innovation hubs are popping up from Addis to Amsterdam and Boston to Bangalore. Fuelled by ideals of openness, community and collaboration, hubs aim to be the next orgware for innovation—beyond business incubators and R&D labs. Managers, policymakers and investors have taken note, but are grappling with how to engage. What makes hubs so appealing and can they teach innovation managers anything new?

If you live in a major city or a national capital, try this exercise: Google the words “innovation hub” and the name of your metropolis, and scroll through the first results page. As one might expect, you will probably come across a news article or blog post that talks about your city’s or region’s innovation landscape as a whole, using the common broad understanding of an innovation hub as a wider geography (like Silicon Valley).

But these days, you are just as likely to find results that point you to a particular group of institutions and initiatives. If you click through to their About pages, you will likely read an array of buzz words such as entrepreneurship, social innovation, start-ups, change-making, empowerment, creativity, co-creation, co-working, collaboration, coding, tinkering, hackathons, bootcamps, acceleration, etc.

If this is indeed the outcome of your web search, you are witnessing the recent but speedy rise of a new type of organisation: the innovation hub. From tens of Impact Hubs in major cities around the world (including London, New York and Singapore), through about 100 technology innovation hubs in Africa, to burgeoning social innovation hubs in China, the phenomenon is rapidly expanding, taking the grassroots entrepreneurship and innovation scene by storm.

At the same time, innovation hubs have largely remained under the radar of mainstream innovation management debate and practice. So what are ‘innovation hubs’, and which ones of their features are worthwhile to consider for adaptation to other innovation contexts?


Limitless can help you reap the benefits of innovation hubs whether you are their member or would like to leverage their potential as an external organisation.

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