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Dr Natalya Sergeeva

Dr Natalya Sergeeva

Highly Commended Winner 2016
What makes an ‘Innovation Champion’?

Research Abstract

Published in European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 19; Issue 1, pp. 72-89, 2016


The purpose of the paper was to explore how an “innovation champion” identity is formulated in the context of the UK construction sector. A conceptual model of “innovation champion” themes is derived from the literature on social identity and then validated through empirical research. In total, 30 semi-structured interviews were conducted with UK construction sector practitioners including Constructing Excellence – the UK construction sector’s network-type organisation for driving innovation. Findings indicate that practitioners socially constructed “innovation champion” identities through narratives about “self” or others. While some practitioners saw themselves as “innovation champions”, many others recognised CEOs as such. “Innovation champions” are commonly recognised as key individuals who promote innovations across businesses. 


Socially constructed identities are seen important to strategic decisions and future actions. The potential contribution to practice is to help current and new generations of practitioners to learn about how to be or become “innovation champions”.
The concept of social identity presents opportunities to enrich our understanding of the “innovation champion” label can stimulate people’s reflections on who they are and what they do. 


The present paper has extended upon prior research and theory by exploring the ways practitioners perceive themselves or others as “innovation champions”. While this research has focused on the UK construction sector, the findings are potentially useful for other sectors where “innovation champion” labels are commonly used. 

Winner's Bios

Dr Natalya Sergeeva

University College London, UK

Dr Natalya Sergeeva is an academic and consultant in the area of innovation and project management. She holds a PhD degree in the subject of innovation narratives in the built environment context. Natalya’s research interests include applications of organizational theories including sensemaking, social identity, narrative and storytelling in understanding innovation at firm and project levels.