Eric von Hippel

T. Wilson (1953) Professor in Management
Professor of Management of Innovation and Engineering Systems


Eric von Hippel Eric A. von Hippel is a founder of the Entrepreneurship Program at MIT. His academic research examines the sources and economics of innovation.

Von Hippel is known for pioneering research that has shown how product lead users are often the developers of successful new products, rather than the manufacturers, as has been commonly assumed. This research, along with that of collaborators and others, is now triggering a major rethinking of how the innovation process works. The emerging view that users are at the center of the innovation process promises to bring about major changes in company business models and also in government policymaking on innovation-related matters. Denmark recently became the first country to adopt support of user-centered innovation as national policy. Von Hippel also has developed practical tools that are used worldwide to enable product manufacturers to more efficiently participate in user-centered innovation processes. In addition, he has founded and participated in several startup firms.

Von Hippel serves on numerous editorial advisory boards for academic journals and is an active researcher with a number of international collaborators. His most recent book is Democratizing Innovation (MIT Press, 2005). Copies can be downloaded free of charge from his MIT Website at

Von Hippel is the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, was a fellow at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and served as Sir Walter Scott Distinguished Professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

Faculty Media

  • The Customer-Inventor Revolution

    For over 30 years, MIT Sloan’s Eric von Hippel has investigated the ways general users of products and services improve them through tinkering and invention.

  • How Everyday People Create the Most Helpful Things

    In “Free Innovation,” MIT Sloan’s Eric von Hippel reveals a world where invention is its own reward.

  • The Accidental Innovator

    Where does a medical breakthrough come from? Patients, caregivers and frontline doctors are all pitching in.

  • Citizens Have Right to Improve Technologies without Fear of Legal Action

    Andrew Torrance and Eric von Hippel have co-authored "The Right to Innovate," a Michigan State Law Review article that offers three approaches to protecting "citizen innovators" and their right to...

  • What If Uber Drivers Owned Uber?

    On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen in San Francisco is going to hear arguments on whether a class-action lawsuit by Uber drivers looking to get their gas and maintenance expenses...

  • How Are Universities Grooming the Next Great Innovators?

    Design and entrepreneurship courses at Stanford and other institutions are fundamentally changing higher education.

  • Turn Your End-User Innovators Into R&D Partners

    From self-customized motorcycles to modified software, end-users have the capabilities to develop and diffuse into their market their innovations. Producers have to choose whether to ignore these...

  • Are You Ready for Do It Yourself Mobile Apps?

    DIY is pervasive these days. Whether it’s self-service checkout at the grocery store, home repair how-to videos on YouTube, or your neighbor brewing his own beer in his backyard, having the ability...

  • Innovation Far Removed From the Lab

    Do-it-yourselfers like Mr. Reetz may not know it, but their tinkering is challenging a deeply entrenched tenet of economic theory: that producers, not consumers, are the ones who innovate.

  • Eric von Hippel Defines Five Terms for Financial Times

    Every Thursday, a business school professor, an expert in his or her field, will define five key terms. This week, MIT Sloan's Eric von Hippel defines: customer co-development, lead users, open...


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Building, Leading, and Sustaining the Innovative Organization Oct 12-13, 2017 | Apr 12-13, 2018 | Oct 1-2, 2018