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Open Innovation: The Next Decade
Joel Westa*, Ammon Salterb, Wim Vanhaverbekecef, Henry Chesbroughde
April 3, 2014
a. School of Applied Life Sciences, Keck Graduate Institute, Claremont, CA 91711-4817, USA
b. School of Management, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, United Kingdom
c. Faculty of Business Economics, Universiteit Hasselt, BE 3590 Diepenbeek, Belgium
d. Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1930, USA
e. ESADE Business School, E-08172 Sant Cugat, Spain
f. Faculty of Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117575
Abstract: We review the contribution and evolution of open innovation since the
publication of Chesbrough’s 2003 Open Innovation book, and suggest likely
directions going forward. We link the articles of this special issue to three key trends
in open innovation research: better measurement, resolving the role of
appropriability and linking that research to the management and economics
literature. From this, we identify other trends and suggest opportunities for future
In the decade since the publication of Chesbrough (2003a), the concept of open
innovation has generated an avalanche of interest. Oriented at a managerial audience, the
book Open Innovation was intended to change practice, by helping firms to span their
boundaries in both the creation and commercialization of innovations.
For many practitioners, the concept of open innovation gave them a new language to
speak about the nature of R&D, helping to shift the dominant logic of R&D away from
the internal discovery toward external engagement. It has also helped to encourage these
business leaders to experiment with a range of new models for generating and
commercializing innovation. For some, indeed, open innovation has become a general
catch-all term for any new model of innovation.
Innovation scholars have also embraced the concept. It has spawned conferences,
special issues (such as this one), numerous books and hundreds of papers. As result of
this interest, governments have also increasingly sought to re-align their policy
frameworks towards open innovation.
Here we briefly discuss the antecedents, evolution and impact of open innovation
across its first decade. We then review recent and incipient themes in open innovation
research, as reflected by nine articles published in this special issue, and suggest potential
research topics for the next decade.
1. Open Innovation: The First Decade
Germinating the idea
The idea of open innovation assumes that corporate innovation activities are more
like an open system than the traditional (20th century) vertically integrated model. It was
developed based on the observation of a handful of (large) innovative companies and
their deviations from traditional practice (Chesbrough, 2003a, 2006). In some respects,
the open innovation model can be seen as a call to a return to the late 19th and early 20th
* Corresponding author. Tel: +1 909 293 8550. E-mail address:
Electronic copy available at:
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century model of innovation, with a rich, diverse market for technology and small,
external oriented R&D labs (Mowery, 2009)
While exhorting firms to be more open in their practices, open innovation built upon
the familiar model of vertically-integrated industrial R&D promulgated by Chris Freeman
and others (Freeman, 1974; Chandler, 1990; Mowery, 1990; Pavitt, 1991). Under open
innovation, large firms do not abandon this approach, but rather augment their traditional
R&D practices with inbound sourcing of external technologies throughout the product
development process, as well as controlled outflows of internal technologies seeking new
markets through outbound licensing (see Chesbrough, 2006: 2-3).
While open innovation offered new terminology and a new managerial paradigm, as
Chesbrough (2006) acknowledged, it built upon antecedents in innovation research.
There are at least three antecedents that helped play a key role in both enabling the ideas
of open innovation and also its acceptance among managers and scholars.
First, innovation scholars have understood since the 1970s that sources of innovative
ideas often come from outside the firm. This includes the research of Freeman in the
chemical industry (Freeman, 1974, 1979), Project Sappho (Achilladelis et al., 1971;
Rothwell et al., 1974) and information sources for technical invention (Gibbons &
Johnson, 1974). Indeed, Allen’s (1977) landmark study of technology transfer of
knowledge in R&D labs describes the lab itself as an “open system,” relying on its
external environment to help it generate ideas. Critical to this tradition was the work of
von Hippel, who through a series of seminal papers documented the role of users in the
generation of innovations (von Hippel, 1976, 1978, 1986) and later documented the role
of suppliers and other external organizations (von Hippel, 1988). Related to this is
research on the “two faces of R&D”, i.e. that internal firm R&D investments not only
generate new knowledge, but also increase a firm’s ability to assimilate external
knowledge (Allen, 1977; Cohen & Levinthal, 1989; Cohen & Levinthal, 1990;
Rosenberg, 1990; Chesbrough, 2006).
Second, open innovation builds on the profiting from innovation framework
developed by Teece (1986), paying specific attention to challenges that firms face
capturing returns from their innovative effort. This tradition is rooted in an understanding
of the particular features of technology markets, with asymmetric relations between
bargaining agents, and incomplete information and contracts (Arora et al, 2001; Gans and
Stern, 2003).
The third antecedent to the book was an emerging interest in the role of business
models, as firms during the 1990s leveraged the Internet to develop new value chains and
revenue models (e.g., Timmers, 1998; Afuah & Tucci, 2001; Magretta, 2002). However,
it was the work of Chesbrough and Rosenbloom (2002) that most closely foreshadowed
the former’s 2003 book. Studying the commercialization of Xerox PARC inventions by
spinoff companies, they concluded that the role of the business model was to mediate
between the technical inputs and economic benefits of a technology, by structuring how a
firm created and captured value from a specific market.
The Evolving Scope of Open Innovation
Over the first decade, scholars have modified and extended the original conception of
open innovation. As discussed below, we believe the papers in this special issue are part
of broader themes within this evolving conception and scope of open innovation.
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Even Chesbrough’s definition of open innovation has evolved during this period. His
first definition of open innovation was:
Open Innovation means that valuable ideas can come from inside or outside
the company and can go to market from inside or outside the company as well.
This approach places external ideas and external paths to market on the same
level of importance as that reserved for internal ideas and paths… (Chesbrough
2003a: 43).
One of the first large-scale empirical studies operationalized the concept as:
an ‘open innovation’ model [is] using a wide range of external actors and
sources to help them achieve and sustain innovation. (Laursen & Salter, 2006:
Reflecting what was learned from the practice of open innovation, the Chesbrough
(2003) definition was revised three years later to emphasize the intentionality of the
knowledge flows into and out of the firm:
Open Innovation is the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to
accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of
innovation, respectively (Chesbrough, 2006: 1).
Most recently, in response to increasing interest in non-pecuniary knowledge flows
(e.g., Dahlander & Gann, 2010; Chesbrough & Di Minin, 2014), the 2006 definition was
extended as follows:
[W]e define open innovation as a distributed innovation process based on
purposively managed knowledge flows across organizational boundaries, using
pecuniary and non-pecuniary mechanisms in line with the organization’s business
model (Chesbrough & Bogers, 2014).
A Successful Decade
In its first decade, open innovation had a tremendous impact on research and practice.
Through the end of 2013, the phrase “open innovation” appears in the title of 687
publications according to the Scopus database (418 publications in SSCI, SCI and other
articles indexed by Web of Science) and 3,150 according to Google Scholar. When
seeking this phrase in the title, abstract and keywords, the number of publications rise to
1,628 for Scopus and 996 for Web of Science. Open innovation has also influenced other
research in strategy, management and innovation studies beyond papers primarily about
open innovation. In the same period, Open Innovation: The New Imperative (Chesbrough,
2003a) had 2,179 citations according to Scopus and 7,300 according to Google Scholar.
For the academic sequel, Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm (Chesbrough et
al, 2006), the total was 836 citations in Scopus; in Google Scholar, the overall book
recorded 1,470 citations, plus 661 for its most influential chapter (Chesbrough 2006a).1
Some of the development and diffusion of open innovation has come through
conferences and special issues. The latter have included three special issues of R&D
Management (Gassman, 2006; Enkel, Gassmann & Chesbrough, 2009; Gassmann, Enkel
& Chesbrough, 2010), as well as one each for Industry & Innovation (Dahlander,
Frederiksen & Rullani, 2008), International Journal of Technology Management (Van De
Vrande, Vanhaverbeke & Gassmann, 2010) and Technovation (Huizingh, 2011). As the
1 We recognize that citation records in all three databases have significant errors, but even with such
errors, we believe the data suggested a substantial trend of rising interest in the topic.
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body of open innovation research has increased, so too has the nuance and sophistication
of the arguments: as the papers in this special issue demonstrate, framing an open
innovation article today means more than just citing Chesbrough (2003a).
Open innovation has also had a considerable impact on practice. Daily industry press
releases tout the latest “open innovation” initiative of an industrial or consulting firm.
Middle managers have adopted “open innovation” in their job title, and conferences
regularly promise to reveal open innovation secrets for their industry participants. Such
managers increasingly realize the importance of specific organizational and managerial
skills to effectively manage external collaborations. The internal management challenges
are equally important, as managers struggle to align open innovation with strategic
objectives. They understand the key role of top management in supporting such
initiatives, creating a supportive culture, and enlisting key functions like legal and HRM.
Perhaps because of the familiar antecedents — and greater industry interest — the
inbound mode has been far more popular among researchers than the outbound mode,
accounting for more than twice as many studies in one recent review (West & Bogers,
2014). The greater interest in the inbound mode may also relate to its greater popularity
among managers, either as a cost-reduction measure or because more firms are in
position to use technology than to create it.
The development of open innovation has become increasingly institutionalized,
analogously to the development of Systems of Innovation (see Sharif, 2006). As with the
latter, open innovation challenged some elements of the traditional view of innovation
management, with its primary focus on internal aspects of innovation management. Over
the past ten years, an “epistemic community” has formed around the term, with a series
of workshops, conferences, doctoral training programs and other events to catalyze and
connect researchers working in this area. Researchers have increasingly self-identified
themselves as “open innovation” researchers. In addition, the formations of clubs of firms
with an interest in open innovation have formed around the world. These clubs provide
an important place for industrial managers to share experience and practices and may
have been important in helping to spurs the wider adoption of the term by other firms.
These industrial clubs have been supported by academics, helping to promote dialog and
debate between open innovation scholars and practitioners. Alongside these academic
and practitioner communities, the concept has been taken up by all levels of governments,
whether local, regional, national or supra-national.
To summarize and synthesize insights from this groundswell of interest, open
innovation has attracted a range of literature reviews, which we will not attempt to
summarize here (e.g., West, Vanhaverbeke and Chesbrough, 2006; Enkel, Gassmann &
Chesbrough, 2009; Dahlander & Gann, 2010; Chesbrough & Bogers, 2014; West &
Bogers, 2014).
2. About The Special Issue
In the fall of 2011, the four guest editors approached Research Policy for permission
to edit a special issue marking the 10th anniversary of Chesbrough (2003). The journal
approved the proposal in early 2012, and assigned Ashish Arora to act as lead editor for
the special issue.
We announced the special issue and conference in March 2012. In response, we
received 78 submissions of abstracts or papers for the conference, and 30 were presented
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at the Open Innovation: New Insights and Evidence Conference hosted by Imperial
College London in June 2012. The first round of papers (including some not presented at
the conference) were submitted in September 2012, with 20 papers asked to resubmit by
April 2013. In the end, nine papers were accepted.
The special issue was among the first published by Research Policy utilizing the
journal’s revised policies for research integrity, described by editor Ben Martin (2013)2.
As with other recent RP articles, all submitting authors were required to self-disclose
related work, and all of the accepted papers met the new standards.
3. Emerging Themes for the Coming Decade
The papers in this SI reflect three emerging themes in open innovation research. The
first is newer and better approaches to measuring open innovation. The second is a more
sophisticated (and nuanced) understanding of the role of appropriability in enabling open
innovation. The third comprises efforts to more closely integrate open innovation with
established theories of management and economics. Here we review these three themes,
and three others that (while not represented in the special issue) will also shape the
conception of open innovation in its second decade: coupled innovation, nonpecuniary
motivations and multilevel analysis.
Novel Measurement
The original conception of open innovation was developed based on case studies of
industry practice in both Chesbrough’s original book and its academic sequel
(Chesbrough 2003a; Chesbrough et al., 2006). As elsewhere in management research,
such case studies provide high internal validity but offer limited external validity: as such,
they are better at “why” or “how” questions than “when” or “how often” (cf. Eisenhardt
& Graebner, 2007; Gibbert et al, 2008).
Not surprisingly, there was an immediate demand for the greater generalizability that
could be provided by a larger N empirical study. This demand was met by early studies
(Chesbrough & Crowther, 2006; Fabrizio, 2006; Laursen & Salter, 2006). Since that time,
the number of such empirical studies have exploded. Such studies have measured the
benefits of OI (Spithoven et al, 2010), the limits to such benefits (Laursen & Salter, 2006),
and the net costs of open innovation (Faems et al, 2010).
The patterns of empirical open innovation research naturally paralleled broader trends
in innovation studies. For example, surveys were among the earliest and most popular
sources of empirical data. Laursen and Salter (2006) spawned a trend of using Europe’s
Community Innovation Survey to measure firm open innovation practices, which have
been followed by a wide range of studies on the use of external sources and collaboration
more generally in the innovation process (e.g., Van der Meer, 2007; Frenz & Ietto-Gillies,
2009; Grimpe and Sofka, 2009; Leiponen and Helfat, 2010, Love et al. 2011). Others
2 Among the many failures of academic integrity detected by Research Policy, Martin (2013) refers to
two open innovation articles retracted in June 2012 for omitting key variables from past studies and
inconsistent reporting of statistical analyses from the same dataset of more than 100 European firms.
The same author has had 14 articles retracted related to technology licensing, creating some confusion
among potential open innovation scholars. We believe that this case is not representative of the broader
open innovation community.
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have used patent data to trace how inbound and outbound knowledge flows by firms are
mediated by a firm’s absorptive capacity (Fabrizio, 2009; Laursen et al, 2010).
In this special issue, we have other novel approaches to measuring open innovation.
Consistent with typologies for innovation practice (Garcia and Calantone, 2002), in this
issue, we have both have “new to the world” measures and “new to the field” measures.
In some cases, the new measures are measuring a new casual relationship or level of
analysis, while in other cases they provide a better way to measure previously identified
In the former category is our first paper by Dahlander & Piezunka (2014). They
examine external suggestions by customers, perhaps the simplest and easiest form of
inbound knowledge to obtain from customers. By analyzing the longitudinal results from
a population of nearly 24,000 companies utilizing a specific online suggestion software
package, they show that external cooperation by customers is the unusual (rather than
usual) case, with less than 10% of the firms receiving multiple suggestions per month.
They show how firm attention is crucial to priming the self-reinforcing process of
external participation.
The success of new product development (and earlier stage R&D) projects has been a
topic of earlier research (e.g. Balachandra & Friar, 1997). However, as Du, Leten &
Vanhaverbeke (2014) demonstrate, this is a level of analysis that has been overlooked by
prior research in open innovation (e.g., West et al, 2006), making it more difficult to
measure the outcomes of an aggregation of heterogeneous open innovation efforts.
Utilizing a new dataset of 489 early stage R&D projects at a large European electronics
company, they found that the projects had greater financial success if they collaborated
for external technology knowledge, but external market-oriented collaborations had no
significant effect.
Also at the sub-firm level of analysis is the work of Belderbos, Cassiman, Faems,
Leten & Van Looy (2014), who use co-patenting to measure open innovation
collaboration at the level of the individual patent. Extending their earlier work with such
measures (Belderbos et al, 2010), they demonstrate different patterns of co-patenting with
universities, complementors and competitors. They show how firms benefit financially
from the former two forms of collaboration, but not from the latter. They also find that
firms are less likely to cite (and thus further develop or exploit) co-patented inventions.
Finally, Mina, Bascavusoglu-Moreau & Hughes (2014) measure firm decisions in an
under-researched but emerging area of open practice, that of services (cf. Chesbrough,
2010). Specifically, based on a survey from some 800 UK firms, they examine how
manufacturing and service firms differ in their use of 14 different approaches to open
innovation collaboration. Among other findings, joint corporate R&D and university
collaborations are more common among high-tech manufacturers, as contrasted to
marketing-oriented collaborations for service firms. They also find that informal
collaborations are predicted by the importance of services and market-based knowledge,
while formal collaborations are predicted by the importance firms place on formal
appropriability (i.e., patents).
Impact of Appropriability
Open innovation builds upon the research of Eric von Hippel and others in user
innovation, and there is considerable overlap between the two bodies of research. Both
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encourage firms to look beyond their walls for sources of innovation, and both have
studied topics such as open source software and crowdsourcing (see Piller & West 2014
for a recent review). Five years ago, researchers in the two communities were quite
distinct (as noted by Dahlander & Gann, 2010: 702), but since, then many user
innovation researchers have since published on open innovation topics.
However, if there is one fault line between open innovation and user innovation, it is
over the importance (and desirability) of strong rights for inventors to appropriate the
returns to their inventions. The two extremes of the appropriability debate are largely
associated with David Teece and Eric von Hippel.
Among other contributions, Teece (1986) introduced the idea that de facto
appropriability was distinct from de jure IP policies, and that the ability of an inventor
(especially a new entrant) was limited without the ability to either vertically integrate or
to contract for services without leakage to rivals (see also Teece, 2006; Winter, 2006).3
With outbound open innovation being effectively defined by Chesbrough (2003) as out-
licensing patented IP, during its first decade open innovation was (not unfairly)
associated with strong appropriability (cf. Christensen, 2006; West, 2006; West et al.,
2006; Dahlander & Gann, 2010).4
Meanwhile, von Hippel has criticized strong appropriability on two fronts. First,
strong appropriability is a drag on collaborative or cumulative processes of innovation,
and thus diminishes societal welfare (see von Hippel, 2005: 112-118; also Rai, 2001;
Murray & O’Mahony, 2007). Secondly, inventors (particularly individual inventors) are
often better off if they “free reveal” their inventions to others rather than seek or assert
formal IP protection (Harhoff et al., 2003; Henkel & von Hippel, 2005; von Hippel &
Von Krogh, 2006; von Hippel, 2007). Some of this has been due to differences in
outcomes and stakeholders, with the focus of von Hippel on consumer, individual and
societal welfare, while open innovation is an (unabashedly) firm-centric theory of
innovation (West & Lakhani, 2008).
These two traditions meet in research on when (and why) firms entitled to strong
appropriability intentionally choose to surrender some part of that appropriability to
achieve firm objective. Firms choose partial openness strategies to build reputation, gain
market share, attract third party contributions, or to grow the market (West, 2003; Henkel,
2006; Simcoe, 2006; West & O’Mahony, 2008; Dahlander & Gann, 2010). They share
their technologies as part of reciprocal exchange with other parties — even in cases
where reciprocation is neither assured nor forthcoming (Henkel, 2006; Alexy et al., 2013)
Two papers in the special issue advance our understanding of the impact of strong
appropriability upon open innovation, and when (or why) firms waive such
appropriability for their own advantage.
Rather than macro level measures of appropriability, Laursen and Salter (2014) study
the formal and informal appropriability strategies used by 2,931 firms in the 4th UK
3 Earlier, von Hippel (1982) found that if weak appropriability for process machinery inventions made it
hard for firms to commercialize their inventions, these firms were more likely to apply such inventions
for their own use in production (i.e., be industrial user-innovators).
4 Firms practicing open innovation were certainly encouraged to leverage inbound innovations from
organizations (such as nonprofit or government labs) that allowed their innovations to spill over
without monetary compensation (Chesbrough, 2003b; West and Gallagher, 2006; Dahlander & Gann,
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Innovation Survey. They link these attitudes to the breadth of external search (as in
Laursen & Salter, 2006) and collaboration with six categories of external sources. On the
one hand, they find strong firm-level appropriability is associated with greater external
search, but find it linked to greater breadth of collaboration only when firms collaborate
with competitors. They also suggest that appropriability is an important prerequisite to
absorptive capacity if firms don’t want to leak valuable knowledge as quickly as they
absorb it.
Similarly, Henkel, Schöberl and Alexy (2014) extend their own earlier studies on
selective revealing. They use qualitative and quantitate data to explain the initiation of
such revealing of Linux-compatible software drivers by electronics manufacturers. They
document the influence of industry shocks upon willingness to reveal, particularly the
expectations of openness by downstream customers, showing how that leads to ongoing
collaboration rather than merely outbound (and/or inbound) knowledge flows. Finally,
they explain how this new openness shifted the basis of competition, suggesting a
differential effect of openness upon firm strategies depending on their a priori
competitive position.
Linking to Management and Economics
Although the original Open Innovation book drew on deep currents of research in the
broader traditions of management and economics, it did not itself seek to directly align to
existing underpinning theories in these fields. Over the past 10 years, researchers have
sought to find mapping of concepts of open innovation to more general theories about the
nature of the firm and its boundaries (Vanhaverbeke and Cloodt, 2014).
Since its initial articulation, open innovation has had strong links to resource-based
view of the firm, as well as the related dynamic capabilities perspective. For example,
Teece (2007) pointed to open innovation in his discussion of the dynamic capabilities to
allow firms to “sense” and “seize” opportunities. Other scholars have highlighted the link
between open innovation and resource dependency theory (Alexy et al. 2014). In addition,
there are strong (and oft-explored) ties between open innovation and research on
absorptive capacity (Spithoven et al., 2011; West & Bogers, 2014).
Three papers specifically link open innovation to established theories in strategy and
economics. One is an empirical study of open innovation and firm diversification, while
the other two (conceptual) papers link open innovation choices to theories of governance.
Colombo, Piva & Rossi-Lamastra (2014) examine the intraindustry diversification
choices of European small and medium-sized software companies. They focus on the use
of open source software projects as a source of external innovations. From a survey of
100 firms, they find greater diversification efforts by smaller firms and firms more active
as open source contributors, but such diversification is limited by the internal
competencies of the firm. From this, they identify the crucial difference between intra-
and inter-industry diversification, and the influence of heterogeneous firm capabilities
upon diversification choices. It also contributes to the relatively limited research on open
innovation in SMEs (cf. van de Vrande et al., 2009).
Meanwhile, Gambardella & Panico (2014) develop a formal conceptual model for the
allocation of property rights and decision rights to explain the ex ante incentives and ex
post benefits of an open innovation collaboration. They show why firms with strong
bargaining power should relinquish some of their rights when necessary to attract a
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capable collaborator — and how failure to relinquish any rights can impair the potential
benefits of the collaboration. They make an important distinction between the allocation
of decision rights during a project, and the control rights associated with intellectual
property arising from the project. As such, they bridge open innovation to more formal
theorizing in organizational economics.
Finally, when considering the governance of innovation efforts, Felin & Zenger
(2014) offer a conceptual framework that extends the familiar hierarchy vs. market
distinction in two ways. First, they subdivide these two categories into six governance
forms, with two forms of internal hierarchy and four distinct categories of external
sourcing. Second, building upon Nickerson & Zenger (2004), they consider governance
of innovation efforts at the level of the project rather than the firm. From this, they
predict the choice of governance form based on the nature of the knowledge being sought
and the nature of the problem being solved.
Other Themes
We would also like to highlight other important themes that were represented in the
earliest submissions in the process and other recent scholarship, but not among the final
articles published in this issue.
One theme has been the shift from the original two (inbound and outbound) modes of
knowledge flow, to the “coupled” mode of Gassmann & Enkel (2004) that combines both
inbound and outbound flows (see also Enkel et al, 2009; Piller & West, 2014).5 This has
occurred in parallel with a shift of open innovation research beyond the dyadic
interaction between two firms, to collaborations with external networks, ecosystems and
communities (Vanhaverbeke, 2006; West & Gallagher, 2006; West & Lakhani, 2008;
Fichter, 2009). Consistent with the Teece (1986, 2006) and subsequent conceptions of
complementary assets, these studies have suggested that firms have an easier time using
these network forms for value creation than obtaining an effective allocation of the value
capture (West, 2014). However, more is needed to develop the conception of coupled
open innovation and to show how open innovation practices are similar (or different) in
such network settings. For example, innovation networks have their own distinct forms of
governance (Nambisan & Sawhney, 2011; while such governance varies between alliance
networks, ecosystems, communities and platforms, only limited research has examined
how open innovation is practiced by firms working within these various network forms
(West, 2014).
Such research could benefit from the availability of more advanced tools for network
analysis, which make it possible to show how social capital – at different levels of
analysis – can shape open innovation. While research on strategic alliances has profited
greatly from a network perspective, the link between open innovation and social capital is
underdeveloped. Moreover, we still know little about how individuals who take up the
open innovation role draw upon their networks to support them in this role. There are few
emerging studies in this area, but more work is required. In addition, the link between
5 Originally, the coupled mode was offered as a combination of inbound and outbound flows from one
organization to another (Gassmann & Enkel, 2004). However, a second, interactive coupled mode of
open innovation entails the cooperative efforts of two organizations (or other actors) that co-develop
new knowledge, products or processes outside the boundaries of each (Piller & West, 2014).
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open innovation and innovation ecosystems has broad potential for future work (Adner,
A second key theme of interest (not represented here) has been an increasing interest
in nonpecuniary motivations (as defined by Dahlander & Gann 2010) and with it, the
application of open innovation to not for profit contexts. This has included universities
(Perkmann & Walsh, 2007), nonprofit organizations (Holmes & Smart, 2009) and even
government agencies (Chesbrough & Di Minin, 2014). Many network or community
forms of collaboration include a mixture of for-profit and non-profit actors (e.g., Müller-
Seitz & Sydow, 2012). There is some evidence that openness can help teams in the health
care sector generate innovative solutions (Salge et al, 2013). Although the potential for
nonpecuniary open innovation research is ripe for greater inquiry, we received only a few
papers on this topic during the special issue process. At this stage, we encourage more
researchers to examine open innovation in this context, and to show how such open
innovation is similar to and different from the growing body of research on corporate
open innovation practices.
As a third theme of interest, there is also a need to develop more multi-level
perspectives on open innovation. Open innovation may be studied (or occur) at different
levels of analysis: individuals, groups/projects, business units, ecosystems/communities,
firms, regions or even national innovation systems (cf. West et al, 2006; Chesbrough and
Bogers, 2014). To date, open innovation research has tended to focus on the level of firm,
with more recent attention directed towards projects and teams. However, consistent with
broader calls in organizational research (e.g. Klein et al, 1999), we highlight the
opportunity for researchers to develop new insights by combining measurement at two
(or more) levels. One possible topic would be to explore how the costs and benefits of
open innovation are shaped by cross-level interactions; another would be to study the
(mis)alignment of incentives and interests for open innovation (e.g. “not invented here”)
are created, identified and addressed by firms.
Writing in parallel to this special issue6, Vanhaverbeke with his colleagues (2014)
identified a separate list of open innovation themes. While several themes overlap our list
above, they also suggested the application of open innovation to new contexts (such as
smaller, low-tech, or non-Western firms), the challenges managers face in organizing for
open innovation, and the importance of open innovation for functions of the firm beyond
R&D — such as HRM, procurement, manufacturing and IT.
4. Discussion
Open innovation has come a long way in the past decade, in both the quantity and
quality of research on the topic. The original conception of open innovation has been
enhanced through inbound knowledge flows from other frameworks and theories in
innovation, strategy and economics. At the same time, outbound flows from open
innovation have shaped and influenced innovation studies and other areas of social
science research.
The papers in this special issue extend three themes that have been prominent in open
innovation research. The first is new approaches for measuring open innovation process.
6 Because these two articles were covering a similar topic and were being written simultaneously, we
made a conscious effort to have separate authors develop the key themes for each chapter before
circulating these articles for comment.
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The second is the interaction between open innovation strategies and firm choices for
strong (or weak) appropriability. The final theme is the increasing integration of open
innovation with established theories of innovation, management and economics. Other
recent themes not represented in this volume include the importance of “coupled” and
network forms of collaboration, application of open innovation to new contexts (such as
nonprofit organizations or smaller firms), analyzing across multiple levels of analysis,
and the challenges of organizing for open innovation.
Other issues of measurement or construct definition potentially cross multiple themes.
Three of the articles consider firm decisions of openness not at the level of the firm, but
for different choices made within a firm. Both an empirical study (Du et al 2014) and a
conceptual framework (Felin & Zenger, 2014) suggest that the appropriate level to
understand firm decisions is at the level of a specific R&D or product development
project, rather than aggregating across all such decisions made by a given firm. The third
study (Belderbos et al, 2014) shows how a firm’s decision to collaborate in developing
specific IP influences how that IP is subsequently used by that firm.
Three of the articles (Henkel et al, 2014, Laursen & Salter, 2014 and particularly
Mina et al, 2014) draw distinctions between formal collaborations such as alliances, and
informal collaborations (such as search, knowledge trading, common participation in
associations). Formal collaborations are associated with greater knowledge transfers
(often in both directions) — thus providing great potential for both risk and reward — but
more work is needed here.
While open innovation research is highly cited and has influenced the direction of
innovation studies, it has had a limited impact upon the broader disciplines of
management and economics. With few exceptions (e.g., Laursen & Salter, 2006), open
innovation research has not been found in general management journals. For example, of
the 287 open innovation-related articles in 19 journals identified by West & Bogers
(2014), only 45 are found in nine research journals used by the FT (2012) rankings,
versus 38 articles in one journal (Research Policy) not on the Financial Times list.
As a relatively new field of research, open innovation provides rich possibilities for
new, fundamental discoveries, including empirical and theoretical developments and
corporate experiments in openness. If the first ten years of intellectual progress is a
testimony to the future, it is possible to be fairly optimistic for a greater appreciation of
the rich, diverse and even unexpected ways that the lens of open innovation can bring to
understanding the innovation process in the next decade.
5. Acknowledgements
We gratefully acknowledge the ongoing assistance of the Research Policy, including
editor Ben Martin and particularly the tireless efforts of Ashish Arora, lead editor for the
special issue. We thank Linus Dahlander and Joachim Henkel for feedback on this article.
Support for the June 2012 special issue conference was provided by the UK Innovation
Research Centre (University of Cambridge and Imperial College London), the Innovation
Studies Centre (Imperial College London) and the Garwood Center for Corporate
Innovation (University of California at Berkeley).
- 12 -
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... Open innovation strategies leverage external channels to improve performance beyond the organization's boundaries (Schueffel, 2014). Adopting an open innovation perspective involves tapping into the knowledge of external actors to effectively support the innovation process (West et al., 2014). Given these considerations, studying the relationship between entrepreneurial orientation and open innovation is important to contribute to the theoretical and empirical discourse regarding factors that facilitate innovation activities. ...
... Consequently, enterprises increasingly adopt EO strategies, encompassing innovation, proactivity, and risktaking, to enhance their innovation performance, improve core competitiveness, and increase financial outcomes (Zhai et al., 2018). The concept of OI-coined by Chesbrough (2003)-has prompted enterprises to seek innovation by involving external actors and knowledge in their processes (West et al., 2014). This has sparked growing interest in examining the relationship between EO and OI (Carvalho & Sugano, 2016;De Cleyn et al., 2013;Hossain, 2013;Hung & Chiang, 2010). ...
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BRANDÃO, Tiago. Open Innovation: The Open Society and its Entrepreneurial Bias. In: Handbook of Alternative Theories of Innovation, Edited by Benoît Godin, Dominique Vinck and Gerald Gaglio. Edward Elgar, 2021, pp. 162-181.
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This paper provides a quantitative study of free revealing of firm-developed innovations within embedded Linux. Firms voluntarily contribute developments back to public projects, receiving informal development support. Revealing selectively still allows them to protect their intellectual property. Revealing is strongly heterogeneous among firms, which can partly be explained by firm characteristics.
This article reviews research on open innovation that considers how and why firms commercialize external sources of innovations. It examines both the “outside-in” and “coupled” modes of Enkel et al. (2009). From an analysis of prior research on how firms leverage external sources of innovation, it suggests a four-phase model in which a linear process — (1) obtaining, (2) integrating and (3) commercializing external innovations — is combined with (4) interaction between the firm and its collaborators. This model is used to classify papers taken from the top 25 innovation journals identified by Linton and Thongpapan (2004), complemented by highly cited work beyond those journals. A review of 291 open innovation-related publications from these sources shows that the majority of these articles indeed address elements of this inbound open innovation process model. Specifically, it finds that researchers have front-loaded their examination of the leveraging process, with an emphasis on obtaining innovations from external sources. However, there is a relative dearth of research related to integrating and commercializing these innovations. Research on obtaining innovations includes searching, enabling, filtering, and acquiring — each category with its own specific set of mechanisms and conditions. Integrating innovations has been mostly studied from an absorptive capacity perspective, with less attention given to the impact of competencies and culture (including not-invented-here). Commercializing innovations puts the most emphasis on how external innovations create value rather than how firms capture value from those innovations. Finally, the interaction phase considers both feedback for the linear process and reciprocal innovation processes such as co-creation, network collaboration and community innovation. This review and synthesis suggests several gaps in prior research. One is a tendency to ignore the importance of business models, despite their central role in distinguishing open innovation from earlier research on inter-organizational collaboration in innovation. Another gap is a tendency in open innovation to use “innovation” in a way inconsistent with earlier definitions in innovation management. The article concludes with recommendations for future research that include examining the end-to-end innovation commercialization process, and studying the moderators and limits of leveraging external sources of innovation.