measuring peer innovation

How can innovation activities within peer networks be identified and accurately mapped? So far, innovation activities outside the market are not accounted for in official statistics. The project tracks the online communication of peer communities that create sustainable solutions in the fields of energy, mobility and urban development. The aim is to find key figures that can serve as indicators to describe these innovation processes.


A digital toolbox (PICI) has been developed to measure innovation activities in online forums. Further down on this page, the toolbox is described and explained in more detail in an interactive infographic.

mapping of peer networks

The mapping will initially be used to identify important projects, actors and interaction platforms in the three fields of action sustainable energy, sustainable mobility and sustainable urban development.
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reflexive evaluation

The procedures developed and tested in the case studies are subjected to a critical evaluation by experts. Independent developers, platform operators, researchers from the fields of innovation and statistics will be invited to compare the results of the studies with their experience.
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netnographic analyses

The aim of the work package is to develop generalizable measurement methods to capture online-based innovations in the household sector. Different instruments of innovation research will be investigated and evaluated in this context.
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Open Source Toolbox "PICI"

Collaboration in peer communities via the internet has opened up innovation processes, but also made them more cluttered. Everybody has the opportunity to exchange ideas about new technical solutions with others in online forums. When using online forums, the quick identification of important information is a basic problem. Due to the information overload, important contributions and innovative ideas even risk not being found at all.


Can we use machine learning to automatically identify relevant forum content? Which indicators are suitable for this purpose depends on the question addressed by the forum: is it about DIY solutions or the latest technology developments, practical help for home use, getting the opinion of lead users or inspiration for innovative market products. In the research project, we analyse the forum posts regarding their indications of innovation activities of the peer community.



In the research project, a digital toolbox (PICI) was developed to use online forums as a data source for the study of peer communities. Indicators were calculated from the interaction networks of various peer communities, which were validated regarding their suitability for determining innovation activities using a manually evaluated part of the forum content. Suitable indicators were then applied to the overall dataset to estimate the occurrence of innovation activities in the peer communities.


The toolbox is open source. Thus, it is freely available and can be modified to such an extent that it can generally be used to develop indicators from forum data to quickly classify content. Metrics for community management, market research or product development could also be investigated. With a training data set, the classification model is adjusted to determine characteristics of contributions or contributors in the forum network that can serve as an indication for recognising relevant information.


The toolbox makes use of online forums as a data source for the investigation of peer communities. The forum data can be provided as a static file or loaded dynamically. Each forum post forms a data point, which is identified e.g. by timestamp, text content, contributor/ID and the associated thread.