Eric von Hippel

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


Eric von Hippel

Eric von Hippel is the T. Wilson (1953) Professor in Management and a Professor of Management of Innovation and Engineering Systems at the MIT Sloan School of Management. 

His research discovers and explores patterns in the sources of innovation and develops new processes to improve the “fuzzy front end” of the innovation process—the end where ideas for breakthrough new products and services are developed. In his most recent book, Democratizing Innovation (MIT Press, April 2005), von Hippel shows how communities of users are actually becoming such powerful innovation engines that they are increasingly driving manufacturers out of product development altogether—a pattern he documents in fields ranging from open source software to sporting equipment. This discovery has been used for a better understanding of the innovation process and for the development of new innovation processes for industry. He is currently leading a major research project to discover how these user innovation communities work, and how and whether the same principles might extend to many areas of product and service development. In addition, von Hippel is working with governmental and academic colleagues in the Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom to develop new and modified governmental policies appropriate to the newly emerging innovation paradigm of user-centered innovation. 

He holds a BA in economics from Harvard College, an SM in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in business and engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University.

Faculty Media

  • User Generated Brands and their Contribution to the Diffusion of User Innovations

    If you have ever come up with a work-around or improvement for a balky product only to find that it performs better than the original, you are not alone.

  • 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.


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