Leveraging on open innovation: A study of why organizations engage in open innovation collaboration
Paper in proceedings, 2013
The open innovation paradigm suggests that innovations do not necessarily originate from the organizations that commercialize them. Accordingly, organizations seek to find ways to obtain, integrate and commercialize knowledge from external sources. One way of engaging in open innovation is to be involved in open innovation arenas, where many organizations collaborate. So far, little empirical research has been done on why firms engage in such open innovation activities, beyond the obvious reason to access assets. Could there also be other motives? This paper investigates why organizations engage in open innovation collaboration. The setting is an open innovation arena involving 22 partner organizations collaboratively innovating in automotive safety. Data from interviews with each partner is the basis for the analysis. The results reveal many reasons for participating in the collaboration. Three main categories were discerned: business reasons (e.g. to improve image and recruit knowledgeable people), research reasons (e.g. to obtain better position within the area and access a broader knowledge base) and collective reasons (e.g. to form a joint agenda and to have a collective voice needed for making a difference). An important consequence of the different motives is that they constitute the basis for evaluating the performance of the collaboration. Where other studies primarily have assumed that firms collaborate to gain financial rewards or to increase the innovative capacity, this study suggests that also other performance criteria are important. As an effect the potential effectiveness of the collaboration is multifaceted and must be evaluated as such. The paper concludes that the expectations that organizations bring to open innovation collaboration vary to a large extent and that the desire to access external assets is one of several motives. Understanding that motives may also be commercial or collective is of utmost importance since such expectations will guide the actions, priorities and choices of each organization. Failing to recognize this may lead to collaborative inertia and thus puts the quality of the collaboration at risk.