[Translate to English:]

Toolkits for User Innovation and Design

User Innovation Research Initative Vienna Logo

The User Innovation Research Initiative is a research program which aims to deepen our understanding of the phenomenon of user innovation and is hosted by the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Vienna University of Economics & Business.

Companies empower Customers

Companies can equip their customers with virtual tools that allow them to design their own products. How does this work?

  • Flexible manufacturing systems have only recently started to enable companies to respond to each customer's individual preferences with an individual product in (almost) mass-production efficiency.

  • Toolkits for User Innovation and Design build the interface between manufacturers and customers.

  • The core idea is to outsource the task of designing new products to users by equipping them with a toolkit that enables them to convert their ideas into individual products.

  • These toolkits allow trial-and-error experimentation and deliver immediate (simulated) feedback on the potential outcome of design ideas.

  • Once a satisfactory solution is found, the design can be transferred into a firm's production system and the product – be it a t-shirt, a car, or an industrial product – can be produced and delivered to the customer.  For digital products such computer game characters or maps the user-design may already be the product.

  • Due to the relative novelty of this phenomenon, research into the shifting of innovation and design tasks from manufacturers to customers is still in its early stages.

  • However, interest in this field is growing fast, as many start-ups as well as big players in various industries have started to empower their customers with toolkits.


In this line of research, we aim to enhance our understanding of this new manufacturer-customer interaction possibilitiy. The research issues we address here include the following:

  • The value increment toolkit-based products deliver to customers: What are its reasons?

  • User-toolkit interaction: How should toolkits look like? Which toolkit characteristics, features, and elements facilitate problem-solving and maximize the value for the user?

  • How can toolkits be embedded in user communities and other methods for benefitting from user creativity?

Key Publications and Working Papers

  • Franke, Nikolaus, Christopher Hader. 2014. Mass or Only “Niche” Customization? Why We Should Interpret Configuration Toolkits as Learning Instruments. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 31 (6) 1214-1234. Download

  • Franke, Nikolaus, Schreier, Martin. 2010. Why customers value mass-customized products: The importance of process effort and enjoyment. Journal of Product Innovation Management, Vol. 27, 1020-1031. Download

  • Franke, Nikolaus, Schreier, Martin, Kaiser, Ulrike. 2010. The "I designed it myself" effect in mass customization. Management Science, Vol. 56, 125-140. Download

  • Franke, Nikolaus, Keinz, Peter, Steger, Christoph. 2009. Testing the Value of Customization: When Do Customers Really Prefer Products Tailored to Their Preferences?. Journal of Marketing, Vol. 73 (5), 103-121.

  • Franke, Nikolaus, Schreier, Martin. 2008. Product uniqueness as a driver of customer utility in mass customization. Marketing Letters, Vol. 19 (2), 93-107. Download

  • Schreier, Martin. 2006. The value increment of mass-customized products: An empirical assessment. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 5/4, 317-327.

  • Franke, Nikolaus, Piller, Frank. 2004. Value Creation by Toolkits for User Innovation and Design: The Case of the Watch Market. Journal of Product Innovation Management, Vol. 21 (6), 401-415. Download

  • Franke, Nikolaus, von Hippel, Eric. 2003. Satisfying Heterogeneous User Needs via Innovation Toolkits: The Case of Apache Security Software. Research Policy, 32, 1199-1215.

  • Franke, Nikolaus, Piller Frank. 2003. Key Research Issues in User Interaction with User Toolkits in a Mass Customization System. The International Journal of Technology Management, Vol. 26 (5/6), 578-599.

  • Franke, Nikolaus, Schreier, Martin. 2002. Entrepreneurial Opportunities with Toolkits for User Innovation and Design. The International Journal on New Media Management, Vol. 4 (4), 225-234.


We have presented our research in this area at several international conferences, including:

  • Academy of Management (Annual Conference)

  • Open and User Innovation Society Meeting

  • American Marketing Association (Summer Educator Conference)

  • European Academy of Management (Annual Conference)

  • International Product Development Management Conference

  • World Congress on Mass Customization and Personalization

Funded by

This initative is funded by: