IdeaOntology to accompany Riedl et al. (2009). "An idea ontology for innovation management." International Journal on Semantic Web and Information Systems, 5(4), 1-18.
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Idea Ontology Vocabulary Specification 1.0

Namespace Document 1 November 2009 - Initial Version

This version: (rdf)
Latest version: (rdf)
Christoph Riedl, Norman May, Jan Finzen, Stephan Stathel, Helmut Krcmar
Cite as:
Riedl, C., May, N. Finzen, J., et al. (2009). "An Idea Ontology for Innovation Management," International Journal on Semantic Web and Information Systems, 5(4), 1-18. SSRN
Members of TEXO and related projects. See acknowledgements.

Copyright © 2009-2010 Christoph Riedl, Norman May, Jan Finzen, Stephan Stathel, Helmut Krcmar

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License. This copyright applies to the Idea Ontology Vocabulary Specification and accompanying documentation in RDF. Regarding underlying technology, the Idea Ontology uses W3C's RDF and OWL technology, open Web standards that can be freely used by anyone. The design of this website is based on that of the FOAF Vocabulary Specification.


This specification describes the Idea Ontology (IM) using the OWL technology. While most people have an intuitive understanding of what the terms idea and innovation mean, a precise and formal definition for the concept of an idea is hard to obtain. Nevertheless, it becomes increasingly important to close this gap. Exchanging and analyzing ideas across different software tools and repositories is needed to implement the concepts of open innovation and holistic innovation management. The Idea Ontology provides a common language to foster interoperability between tools and to support the idea life cycle.

Status of This Document

The Idea Ontology has been evolving gradually since its creation in 2008. The current state can now be considered a stable core of classes and properties that will not see too much changes in the future. New terms may be added as new requirements emerge, and consequently this specification is an evolving work. The Idea Ontology RDF namespace, by contrast, is fixed and it's identifier is not expected to change.

The Idea Ontology specification is produced as part of the TEXO project, making a contribution towards the creation of a new Internet-based knowledge infrastructure that will allow faster and more effective processing and use of online knowledge in future.

The authors welcome comments on this document, preferably via email to the authors.

As usual, see the changes section for details of the changes in this version of the specification.

Table of Contents

IM at a glance

An a-z index of IM terms, by class (categories or types) and by property.

Classes: CoreIdea | IdeaRealization | Origin | Status

Object properties: hasAttachement | hasCreator | hasForum | hasOrigin | hasRating | hasRealization | hasStatus | hasTagging | hasTopic | isNewVersionOf

Data properties: abstract | date | description | title | version

Core Idea Basics

Overview of Idea Ontology concepts


Here is a very basic document describing a simple idea:

<#idea123> a im:CoreIdea ; 
	dc:title "Calculate environmental sustainability based on bill of materials." ; 
	im:hasForum <#forum idea123> . 
<#forum idea123> a sioc:Forum . 
&lt;; a skos:Concept ; 
	skos:prefLabel "Market"@en . 
&lt;; a skos:Concept ; 
	skos:prefLabel "Customer"@en . 
<#item101> a sioc:Item ; 
	sioc:has container <#forum idea123> ; 
	im:hasTopic <> ; 
	sioc:content "Automotive industries" . 
<#item102> a sioc:Item ; 
	sioc:has container <#forum idea123> ; 
	im:hasTopic <> ; 
	sioc:content "Engineering departments of automobile manufacturers" .

The example illustrates how the combination of im:CoreIdea, sioc:Item, and skos:Concept can be used to represent detailed idea submission forms in a semantically enriched way. We model descriptive arguments as sioc:Items that are attached to an idea and further linked to a skos:Concept through the hasTopic relationship that defines the semantic meaning of the argument. As sioc:Items are modeled as rdf:Resources it is possible to assign a rating to them.

Introduction: IM Basics

The Semantic Web

To a computer, the Web is a flat, boring world, devoid of meaning. This is a pity, as in fact documents on the Web describe real objects and imaginary concepts, and give particular relationships between them. For example, a document might describe a person. The title document to a house describes a house and also the ownership relation with a person. Adding semantics to the Web involves two things: allowing documents which have information in machine-readable forms, and allowing links to be created with relationship values. Only when we have this extra level of semantics will we be able to use computer power to help us exploit the information to a greater extent than our own reading.

- Tim Berners-Lee "W3 future directions" keynote, 1st World Wide Web Conference Geneva, May 1994

IM and the Semantic Web

Several benefits can be expected by the use of an ontology. They provide structure to poorly structured or unstructured information, realize management support and interdisciplinary communication as a result of structuring information, and allow the analysis and comparison of the information represented beyond operational data. In addition to these generic benefits of representing information with defined ontologies other benefits particular important in the area of representing ideas and innovation management can be expected. As more and more idea and innovation platforms appear on the Web, it becomes desirable to exchange information between platforms and tools to prevent ideas from residing in silos. At the same time, enterprises start to understand the potential benefit from open innovation systems and feel the need to open up their internal innovation processes and to integrate innovation management tools. The semantics of an organization's specific working context is captured by its local or private ontology which serves the purposes of the particular organization. Thus, the need for a common language, i.e., a common idea data interchange format or a shared ontology to support the interoperability and to improve cross-enterprise collaboration, becomes evident.

Today, most existing idea portals on the Web are restricted to capabilities like tagging and ordinal ratings as the basis for idea analysis. However, we believe that more powerful tools and methods in idea portals cannot reveal their full potential until an agreement on the basic concepts of an idea is reached. The use of semantic techniques brings with it the possibility to improve end-user efficiency by means of automated processing, and to cope with advanced analytical processing of idea metadata through reasoning. Thus innovation managers could profit from better structured information, integration and data exchange across tools and platforms, and additional semantic reasoning that allows to analyze ideas based on related concepts.

In summary, the main benefits of using an ontology approach for idea management are the ability to achieve interoperability and technical integration between tools thus better supporting the idea life cycle from idea generation, idea evaluation through to idea implementation across specialized tools as well as advanced analysis through semantic reasoning.

The Basic Idea

We chose OWL for the development of our ontology and followed a generic ontology development approach. During our reserach we found that neither RDF as well as RDFS is not expressive enough to model complex structures like complex classes and relations carrying semantic expressions. As RDFS only supports classes and relations, it is also capable of modeling sub-class concepts and relations, but only simple ones. In the evaluation section, this will be explained with an example. We chose the approach by Noy and McGuinnes ("Ontology development 101: A guide to creating your first ontology") as it in particular focuses on the reuse of existing ontologies. Protégé has been used for modeling the Idea To further determine the scope of the ontology, a list of exemplary competency questions that a knowledge base based on the ontology should be able to answer has been designed. The questions have been prepared from the perspective of an innovation manager working with a large pool of ideas.

  • Which ideas are in the repository?
  • For which categories have ideas been submitted?
  • Which tags have been used to classify ideas?
  • Which ideas have already been implemented?
  • Which ideas have at least three ratings?
  • Which ideas have at least two or more ratings as well as at least one realization?
  • Which are the most valueable community members by assessing at least three ideas?

The various namespaces used in the ontology are summarized in the following table.

Ontology Prefix Short Description
Idea Ontology im The ontology for innovation management introduced here
RDF rdf Resource Description Framework
Dublin Core dc The Dublin Core for metadata about resources
FOAF foaf The Friend of a Friend ontology for describing agents and their relationships
Tagging Ontolgy tags A simple tagging ontology
SIOC sioc An ontology for (online) communities
Rating Ontology r A rating ontology
SKOS skos An ontology for knowledge representation

IM cross-reference: Listing IM Classes and Properties

IM introduces the following classes and properties. View this document's source markup to see the RDF/XML version.

Classes and Properties (full detail)

Class: im:CoreIdea

sub-class-of: rdf:Resource
in-range-of: im:abstract dc:date dc:description dc:title im:version
in-domain-of: im:hasForum im:hasRealization im:hasStatus im:isNewVersionOf

This is the central class of the Idea Ontology. An im:CoreIdea is the entity that holds an idea. To achieve a generic and versatile representation of ideas we chose a hierarchical design with three layers of textual descriptions for a im:CoreIdea: dc:title, im:abstract, and dc:description. All three represent a textual description of the idea but vary in length and detail. Thus, our ontology is able to support very simple tools such as electronic brainstorming where an idea usually consists of no more than one sentence, up to more advanced tools that allow longer descriptions. It is also possible to extend the description with resources such as images, screenshots, or process diagrams: they can be attached as foaf:Documents using the im:hasAttachment relationship. Furthermore, every im:CoreIdea has an associated creation date dc:date and a im:version number to allow keeping track of different instances of the same idea by means of the im:isNewVersionOf relationship. An idea can also have a relationship with sioc:Forum (using im:hasForum) and im:IdeaRealization (using im:hasRalization).

Through the sub-classing attributes such im:hasCreator, im:hasRating, and im:hasTagging are inherited from rdf:Resource.

Class: im:IdeaRealization

in-range-of: im:hasRealization
in-domain-of: unspecified (see description below)

To support the full innovation life cycle and to allow for incremental innovations of existing products and services the link between ideas and their resulting realizations must be preserved. Moreover, the back-link from a realization to the original idea allows evaluating various performance measures. For example, it would be possible to identify authors of highly successful ideas. To achieve this tracking across the life cycle our ontology contains an im:IdeaRealization class which is linked to an im:CoreIdea by means of the im:hasRealization object property. The im:IdeaRealization class is a placeholder for whatever is an appropriate means of representing an idea's realization. In a product environment this may be a product number. In a software-as-a-service environment the idea realization could link to a description of a Web service, for example, using WSDL. The idea described in an im:CoreIdea may be realized as a new product or new service at a later stage of the innovation process. This class is used to link an im:CoreIdea to a realization of that idea.

Class: im:Origin

in-range-of: im:hasOrigin
in-domain-of: dc:source dc:title

As one of our Idea Ontology's main goals is to foster interoperability between various innovation management tools it is necessary to keep track of the application that a given resource originates from. The im:Origin class can be used for this purpose. In this way it can be stated that an idea originates, e.g., from a brainstorming tool, an idea portal on the Web, or another application. The application that the rdf:Resource originates from.

Class: rdf:Resource

in-range-of: im:hasCreator im:hasTagging im:hasTopic
in-domain-of: im:hasAttachment

Innovation related documents share certain common aspects such as having a topic or being rateable. Thus, all innovation related documents have been subsumed under the class rdf:Resource.
Known sub-classes within the context of the Idea Ontology are im:CoreIdea, sioc:Item, and foaf:Document.

Class: im:Status

in-domain-of:dc:description dc:title

In order to track an idea's progression throughout a submission, evaluation, and implementation process it is necessary to have states associated with an idea. The im:Status class offers this functionality. This class contains a set of instances denoting differnet states an im:CoreIdea can be in. Examples are new, open, evaluated, implemented, etc.

Data Property: im:abstract

<td><a href="#term_CoreIdea">im:CoreIdea</a></td></tr>
<td><a href="" target="rdf">rdf:XMLLiteral</a></td></tr>

A medium length abstract describing an im:CoreIdea. For a short title of an idea please use the dc:title attribute and for a longer description of an idea the dc:description attribute of an im:CoreIdea.

Data Property: dc:date

<td><a href="#term_CoreIdea">im:CoreIdea</a></td></tr>
<td><a href="" target="rdf">rdf:XMLLiteral</a></td></tr>

Time this version of an im:CoreIdea has been created.
See: dc:date.

Data Property: dc:description

<td><a href="#term_Status">im:Status</a> <a href="#term_CoreIdea">im:CoreIdea</a></td></tr>
<td><a href="" target="rdf">rdf:XMLLiteral</a></td></tr>

An account of a rdf:Resource. dc:description is used in the Idea Ontology to assign a textual description to an im:CoreIdea and anim:Status.
See: dc:description.

Data Property: dc:title

<td><a href="#term_CoreIdea">im:CoreIdea</a> <a href="#term_Origin">im:Origin</a> <a href="#term_Status">im:Status</a></td></tr>
<td><a href="" target="rdf">rdf:XMLLiteral</a></td></tr>

A name given to the resource. dc:title is used in the Idea Ontology to assign a title to im:CoreIdea and im:Status.
See: dc:title.

Data Property: im:version

Domain: im:CoreIdea
Range: rdf:XMLLiteral

Every im:CoreIdea has an im:version number to allow keeping track of different instances of the same idea by means of the im:isNewVersionOf relationship.

Object Property: im:hasAttachment

Domain: rdf:Resource
Range: foaf:document

An im:CoreIdea (more specifically: all rdf:Resources) may have documents attached to it (e.g., a screenshot, a process model, technical drawings, etc.) that contains more detailed descriptions of the idea.

Object Property: im:hasCreator

Domain: rdf:Resource
Range: foaf:Person

Relates a rdf:Resource to its creator foaf:Person.

Object Property: im:hasForum

Domain: im:CoreIdea
Range: sioc:Forum

An im:CoreIdea may have multiple sioc:forums associated with it where users are discussing the idea. All sioc:items (forum style, blogs, anything) are organized using the SIOC ontology.

Object Property: im:hasRating

Domain: rdf:Resource
Range: r:Rating

All innovation related rdf:Resources can be rated. If a rdf:Resource has a r:Rating, this is indicated by im:hasRating.
See: tvblob rating.

Object Property: im:hasRealization

Domain: im:CoreIdea
Range: im:IdeaRealization

An im:CoreIdea may be, at a later point in the innovation process, be implemented in a concrete product or service. This is indicated through a im:hasRealization link to an im:IdeaRealization.

Object Property: im:hasStatus

Domain: im:CoreIdea
Range: im:Status

Every im:CoreIdea should have an assigned state which denots the state of this idea. This could mean that an idea is open, evaluated, implemented, etc.

Object Property: im:hasTagging

Domain: rdf:Resource
Range: tags:Tagging

Relates a tag to a rdf:Resource.

Object Property: im:hasTopic

Domain: rdf:Resource
Range: skos:Concept

Denots that a given rdf:Resource is related to a skos:Concept.

Object Property: im:isNewVersionOf

Domain: im:CoreIdea
Range: im:CoreIdea

To account for versioning of ideas and comments different versions of the same idea/comment can be linked to each other indicating that they are "the same" but in different versions.

Object Property: im:isSubjectOf

Domain: skos:Concept
Range: rdf:Resource
is-inverse-of: im:hasTopic

Denotes that the given skos:Concept is discussed in the related rdf:Resource.

Object Property: im:realizes

Domain: im:IdeaRealization
Range: im:CoreIdea
is-inverse-of: im:hasRealization

This im:IdeaRealization realises (i.e. implements) a certain CoreIdea. I.e. the product or service realized here, originates/is based on an CoreIdea.


This research was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology under the promotional reference 01MQ07012, 01MQ07017, 01MQ07019, and 01MQ07024 and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research under grant number 01IA08001A. The responsibility for this publication lies with the authors.

We want to acknowledge in particular the help of Daniel Oberle and Tom Kiemes from the TEXO Project.

Copyright Disclaimer

The information in this document is proprietary to the following THESEUS consortium members funded by means of the German Federal Ministry of Economy and Technology : SAP AG, FZI, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft and Technische Universität München. The information in this document is provided “as is”, and no guarantee or warranty is given that the information is fit for any particular purpose. The above referenced consortium members shall have no liability for damages of any kind including without limitation direct, special, indirect, or consequential damages that may result from the use of these materials subject to any liability which is mandatory due to applicable law. Copyright 2009 by SAP AG, FZI, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft and Technische Universität München. All rights reserved.

Recent Changes

Initial version: 2009-11-09 Moved to GitHub: 2017-08-08