Global intellectual capital brokering: Facilitating the emergence of innovations through network mediation

Maaretta Törrö

Research output: ThesisMaster's thesis


The market for intellectual capital has become global. Ideas, knowledge, and technology are now flowing more freely than ever as companies are opening up their processes in the spirit of open innovation. Simultaneously, firms are being increasingly forced to utilize new external channels to gain input for their innovation process. This development has led to the emergence of intermediate actors who facilitate transactions on intellectual capital. This study concentrates on one type of these intermediaries, global intellectual capital (IC) brokers. These brokers act as mediators between previously unconnected parties, providing their customers an access to a global pool of providers and buyers of intellectual capital, partly enabled by the internet. This study aims at building a holistic picture on the phenomenon of global intellectual capital brokering. It is explored how global IC brokers create value to their customers and facilitate the emergence of innovations. The open innovation paradigm provides the principal theoretical basis for this study. Furthermore, the phenomenon is observed from the perspective of the industrial network theory, in order to understand how interorganizational networks affect the role of global IC brokering. Empirical insight into the topic is gained through a case study, where the views of all actors in the brokering process – the providers, mediators, and buyers of intellectual capital – are being analyzed. The observed cases represent a variety of industries, cultural backgrounds, and company sizes, ranging from individual scientists to multinational corporations. The main findings of the study imply that global intellectual capital brokers do facilitate the emergence of innovations by building unobvious contacts between previously unconnected parties. The transactional contacts established by the broker do not diminish the importance of long-term strategic relationships, but complete them. Brokering services are especially beneficial in emerging industries where the knowledge cells are fragmented globally, and in terms of cross-industrial contacts. The short-term approach brings along a high degree of uncertainty, but the opportunity to gain access to new networks outweighs the risks. The study also reveals in which ways global IC brokering creates value to different types of customers, including both proactive and reactive sellers and buyers of intellectual capital. Furthermore, positive and negative implications of the brokering service for the customers on both sides are listed, helping corporate decision-makers to better understand the phenomenon. Though this study provides substantial new contribution to the knowledge on open innovation practices and the intermediate markets for innovation, there are still plenty of fruitful research topics available in the area. Some suggestions for a future research agenda are thus provided in the end of this report.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationMaster Degree
Awarding Institution
  • University of Oulu
Place of PublicationOulu
Publication statusPublished - 2006
MoE publication typeG2 Master's thesis, polytechnic Master's thesis


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