Accelerated innovation through repurposing: Exaptation of design and manufacturing in response to COVID-19


As the COVID‐19 pandemic spread across the globe in the first quarter of 2020, demand for specialised equipment in hospitals soared. As a result, firms from a variety of sectors repurposed their design and manufacturing to create new products in days. By examining 80 cases of this accelerated innovation, the research investigates how a shared purpose drives change in the innovation process. It applies the lens of exaptation – the discovery of unintended functions for technologies – to explain how product complexity and ecosystem structure affect accelerated innovation in this context. The research extends the application of exaption to manufacturing as well as product design; it identifies a relationship between complexity, exaptation and ecosystems. The research suggests that the ability to exapt design and manufacturing can determine a firm’s ecosystem role. These results lead to implications for theory and for practice, during the response to and recovery from the crisis.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Engineering & Physical Sciences
College of Engineering & Physical Sciences > Aston Institute of Urban Technology and the Environment (ASTUTE)
College of Engineering & Physical Sciences > School of Engineering and Technology > Mechanical, Biomedical & Design
College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School > Operations & Information Management
College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School > Advanced Services Group
College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors. R&D Management published by RADMA and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Business and International Management,General Business,Management and Accounting,Strategy and Management,Management of Technology and Innovation
Publication ISSN: 1467-9310
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2024 07:12
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2021 13:57
Full Text Link:
Related URLs: https://onlinel ... 1111/radm.12460 (Publisher URL)
http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2021-09
Published Online Date: 2021-03-02
Accepted Date: 2021-01-26
Authors: Liu, Wei (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-8014-7218)
Beltagui, Ahmad (ORCID Profile 0000-0003-2687-0971)
Ye, Songhe



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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