Innovation processes have evolved in recent decades from simple linear and sequential models to increasingly complex models embodying a diverse range of inter and intra stakeholder and process interaction. Distinguishable by their management focus, strategic drivers, accommodation of external actors and levels of integration of internal and external processes and function, Rothwell (Rothwell, Towards the fifth-generation innovation process, 1994) documented five shifts or generations, to which Chesbrough’s open innovation model is often added as a sixth generation model, as depicted in the table below: 

Table 1: Six generation shifts in innovation models (Rothwell, Towards the fifth-generation innovation process, 1994)

Model Generation Characteristic
Technology push First Simple linear sequential process, emphasis on R&D and science. The initial impetus is the progress in technological ability.
Market pull Second Simple linear sequential process, emphasis on marketing, the market is the source of new ideas for R&D
Coupling Third Recognizing interaction between different elements and feedback loops between them, emphasis on integrating R&D and marketing
Interactive Fourth Combination of push and pull models, integration within firm, emphasis on external linkages
Network Fifth Emphasis on knowledge accumulation and external linkages, systems integration and extensive networking.
Open Sixth Internal and external ideas as well as internal and external paths to market can be combined to advance the development of new technologies

Rothwell’s (Rothwell, Towards the fifth-generation innovation process, 1994) classification of innovation models demonstrates that the complexity and integration of the models increases with each subsequent generation as new practices emerge to remedy the shortcomings of earlier generations and to adapt to a changing context. Table 2 illustrates the first five generations by their type and describes each of them using distinguishing characteristics.

Table 2: Distinguishable characteristics of innovation models (O'Raghallaigh, Sammon, & Murphy, 2011)

  Type of model
Linear Interactive Integrated
Characteristics Timeframe 1950s to late 1970s Mid 1970s to mid 1980s Mid 1980s to present
Generations (Model exemplars) First Generation (Technology-push); Second Generation (Market-Pull) Third Generation (Chain-linked) Fourth Generation (Cooperative R&D); Fifth Generation (Systems Integration and Networking)
R&D An increase in R&D results in more innovation output Emphasises how R&D interacts with market forces Emphasises cooperative R&D and the links between independent agents
Knowledge source Internal scientific research is the main knowledge source Internal scientific research as well as knowledge acquired from other (mainly) internal sources Knowledge acquired from both internal and external sources
Market forces For the Technology-Push the market forces are largely ignored. For Market-Pull the market forces direct the R&D investment Market forces interact with R&D decision-making Horizontal and vertical alliances respond to market changes

Before examining individual models, it is useful to emphasize the following caveat stressed by Rothwell (Rothwell, Developments Towards the Fifth Generation Model of Innovation, 1992) - the evolving generation of innovation models does not imply any automatic substitution of one model for another; many models exist side-by-side and, in some cases, elements of one model are interweaved with elements of another.

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