The word 'Innovation' refers to much more than technological/technical change. In fact, the the OECD Oslo Manual (2005) defines it as 'new or significantly improved product (good or service), process, method, organisations or relations'. Therefore, we can talk about technological innovation, process innovation, organisational innovation and even social innovation.

Innovations are not only the creative output of a solitary inventor or of a single firm. Innovations are also generated by a system or network: we then talk about systems of innovation. Innovation is not a linear process whereby an entity invests input, and then recovers their investment through their innovation. Several organisations and institutions at different levels work towards innovative output. A nice way of putting it is that organisations are the actors of the game of innovation, and the institutions are the rules of the game.

Examples of actors in innovation systems are schools and universities, researchers, policymakers, entrepreneurs and consumers.

Examples of institutions are supportive legislation, property rights, technology standards, norms, beliefs and practices.

For example, disability innovations promoted by the EPR are part of an innovation system which brings together organisations such as advocates, researchers, EPR members, and the EPR itself supported by institutions such as good practices and Innovation prizes. Together they form a network and can be defined as an innovation system.