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Industry and Innovation

For a Special Issue on

Repurposing for Innovation: Navigating Technology, Uncertainty, and Sustainability in the Modern Business Landscape

Manuscript deadline
31 January 2025

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Isabel-Maria Bodas-Freitas, Grenoble Business School, Grenoble, France
[email protected]

Marvin Hanisch, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
[email protected]

Yansong Hu, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Warwick, United Kingdom
[email protected]

Dorota Piaskowska, College of Business, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
[email protected]

Bastian Rake, School of Business, Maynooth University, Maynooth, Ireland
[email protected]

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Repurposing for Innovation: Navigating Technology, Uncertainty, and Sustainability in the Modern Business Landscape

Background and Objective

Societies around the globe are facing grand challenges including climate change, inequality, and insufficient access to necessities such as food, water, or healthcare (Ferraro, Etzion, and Gehman 2015; George et al. 2016; Hanisch 2024). Public in general and policymakers tend to believe that these challenges need to be addressed through technological breakthroughs. However, given the uncertainty associated with the knowledge creation process, it is difficult to predict when and which type of solutions could be developed (Mowery, Nelson, and Martin 2010). Addressing global challenges may instead require different actors to develop (collaborative) solutions that build on their existing knowledge and experience (Bodas Freitas 2020; McGahan et al. 2021; Mowery, Nelson, and Martin 2010; Meissner et al. 2024). As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, the reuse of available technologies and knowledge may accelerate the innovation process (Hanisch and Rake 2021; Cooper 2021; Omezzine, Oruganti, and Bodas Freitas 2022).

It has long been argued that a new technology can emerge when an existing technology is applied to a new domain (Levinthal 1998). Indeed, innovation often results from processes of speciation and exaptation, in which individuals and organizations reuse existing knowledge and technologies, developed to perform a function in a specific domain, to develop new products and technologies aimed to perform similar or other functions and create new markets (Omezzine and Bodas Freitas 2022; Cattani 2006; Carignani, Cattani, and Zaina 2019). While the market introduction of innovations reusing existing knowledge requires planned action, cognitive associations that may permit to identify a new opportunities may also result from serendipity (Garud, Gehman, and Giuliani 2018, 2016; Andriani and Cattani 2016). Despite these contributions, the innovation and in particular the strategic management literature still focus mostly on technological breakthroughs. Thus, there is still little knowledge on how organizations can design their innovation processes to leverage opportunities for repurposing existing knowledge and technologies, and thereby accelerate their innovation and sustainable activities.

Therefore, this special issue endeavours to investigate the antecedents and outcomes of innovations that result from repurposing ideas, knowledge, and technologies. Specifically, it aims to deepen our understanding of the sources, processes, conditions, and outcomes of reusing and recombining ideas, knowledge, and technologies. As such, this special issue focuses on four interrelated themes:

  • Exploring antecedents: The first theme focuses on strategies to transform serendipity from a stroke of luck into a planned activity that can be harnessed as a (re)source, facilitating the organic emergence of repurposing.
  • Exploring processes: The second theme considers applications of artificial intelligence (AI) to accelerate the discovery and implementation of repurposed innovations.
  • Exploring contexts: The third theme aims to advance knowledge on how high-uncertainty contexts, such as crises, can facilitate and provide incentives for the use of repurposing, turning challenges into opportunities.
  • Exploring outcomes: The fourth theme investigates how recombination and reuse, broadly defined, of existing knowledge and technologies can address societal grand challenges.

In essence, this special issue aims to unravel the complex dynamics that underlie innovative repurposing across important stages of the innovation journey.

Research Topics

We invite quantitative and qualitative empirical submissions studying the topic of “Repurposing for Innovation” in a variety of contexts and from diverse theoretical perspectives, including to organizational-, team-, individual-, and product-level analyses. Suggested topics of this special issue include, but are not limited to:

1. Serendipity

This theme explores the role of serendipity and accidents in the innovation process, emphasizing how groundbreaking solutions and advancements can be identified and developed reusing existing technologies and knowledge.

Sample Research Questions:

  • How does serendipity contribute to innovation in different industries, and what factors enhance or inhibit its occurrence?
  • How can organizations foster serendipity in their innovation processes?
  • Which management and organizational practices enhance the possibility of identifying new uses for existing knowledge? How do these practices impact the ways in which individuals interact and communicate along the innovation process?

2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Innovation Recombination

This theme focuses on the role that generative AI may play in facilitating repurposing of existing knowledge and technologies. AI provides tools to facilitate technological recombination, virtual testing, and deployment. For instance, organizations can use advanced computational algorithms, simulation technologies, and virtual environments to explore different combinations of ideas and components, accelerating the experimentation phase.

Sample Research Questions:

  • What role does generative AI play in facilitating knowledge recombination and repurposing, and how does it impact the speed and creativity of the innovation process?
  • How do innovations generated by AI differ qualitatively from traditional innovations and what are the consequences for a firm's competitive positioning?
  • How can AI help in repositioning past projects, where AI has been used to analyse and reposition projects that were not initially successful? What is the role of AI in recycling failed or suspended projects.

3. Innovation in High Uncertainty Contexts

This theme focuses on innovation during times of high uncertainty, such as pandemics or economic downturns, on innovation processes. It aims to uncover whether and how strategies organizations employ to innovate in times of crisis differ from those used in times of lower uncertainty.

Sample Research Questions:

  • How do organizations adapt their innovation strategies in response to sudden crises, and what factors contribute to successful innovation during challenging times?
  • To what extent does crisis-driven innovation lead to long-term changes in organizational structures, cultures, and approaches to problem-solving?
  • How and under what conditions do innovation strategies such as exaptation, bricolage, and repurposing contribute to crisis resolution?

4. Revaluation Practices for Sustainability

This theme focuses on the potential of upcycling and recycling within the innovation process, exploring how the practices that foster recycling and reusing contribute to the development of innovations that reduce the environmental impact of business activities.

Sample Research Questions:

  • How do organizations integrate upcycling and recycling principles into their innovation processes, and what factors influence the success of such initiatives in achieving sustainability objectives?
  • What are the environmental, economic, and social impacts of upcycling and recycling innovations, and how can organizations measure and optimize these outcomes?
  • How do regulatory frameworks and government policies influence the adoption of upcycling and recycling innovation practices in different industries, and what strategies can enhance their effectiveness?

Submission Instructions

Important Dates

  • Submission system opens on January 01, 2025
  • Submissions to the Special Issue are due by January 31, 2025
  • Publication of the Special Issue in summer/fall 2026

Related Events

The Special Issue Editors intend to organize a virtual workshop to explain the scope and purpose of the Special Issue prior to the submission due date.

After the submission due date, authors of papers invited to resubmit their manuscripts after the first round of reviews will be invited to a hybrid Paper Development Workshop. This Paper Development Workshop will provide an opportunity for engaging with the guest editors to discuss revisions and for connecting authors to advance the topic of the Special Issue. It is planned that the Paper Development Workshop takes place around May/June 2025.

Acceptance to the Paper Development Workshop does not guarantee acceptance to the Special Issue.

Submission Process

Paper submissions will undergo rigorous editorial screening and double-blind peer review by a minimum of two recognized scholars. The standard requirements of Industry and Innovation for submissions apply. Please consult the journal submission guidelines available at

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