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Working paper

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves! A Study of User-Innovation in Russia

 This paper studies the specificities of Russian user-innovators on a sample of 1670 home interviews. The percentage of end users who innovate in their daily life in the Russian population and the willingness to share one’s ideas and developments is much higher in comparison to western countries and probably historically rooted in long-standing community activities which spread during soviet times. Our data suggests the existence of two different groups of user- innovators: one group of urban, male, well educated, and financially better-situated individuals who innovate for career reasons (or for fun) vs. a much more diverse group of small town folks who innovate out of necessity. While the first group confirms findings well described in the literature, the second group seems to be unique to developing markets and to Russia in particular. User-innovation happens also in remote areas, and among user groups outside of the working age. As these user-innovators are reluctant to share their innovations with others and would rather keep them for themselves, a great source of ideas and commercial opportunity remains untouched. Russia’s innovation system has so far concentrated on the classical innovation modes around major cities or big companies. Given Russia’s extensive presence of user-innovators, it might be a promising policy move to provide greater support to existing and emerging amateur communities. We believe that our study adds insights into the informal and totally neglected viewpoint on Russia’s innovation.