The role of openness in collaborative innovation in industrial networks: historical and contemporary cases
Journal article, 2021

Purpose: This paper aims to explore the role and meaning of openness for the purpose of enhancing the understanding of collaborative innovation from an industrial network perspective. Design/methodology/approach: The theoretical framework is based on the Industrial Network Approach, and the concepts of activity links, resource ties and actor bonds are used as a starting point for capturing the content and dynamics of the interaction. The empirical part consists of five case studies: two historical and three contemporary cases dealing with collaborative innovation projects. The cases are analyzed with regard to openness in business relationships and their connections in the network. Findings: The main contribution is a conceptualization of openness in business relationships and relationship connections. The paper describes various forms and contents of openness – and closeness. It is postulated that the concept of openness can be used as an analytical tool for digging deeper into relationship and network-related issues of relevance to firms’ behavior in the context of collaborative innovation. Openness, as it is defined in this paper, is also put forward as an explanation of why (or why not) collaborative innovation projects become successful. Originality/value: The conceptualization of openness differs from openness as it is commonly described in the open innovation literature. There, openness is the opposite of closeness, that is, a pattern where the innovation activities take place internally within the company. In this paper, openness, instead, has to do with how firms interact with other network actors in the context of collaborative innovation.

Open innovation

Industrial network


Collaborative innovation

Business relationship

Resource combining



Jens Laage-Hellman

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Supply and Operations Management

Frida Lind

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Supply and Operations Management

Andrea Perna

Uppsala University

Marche Polytechnic University

Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing

0885-8624 (ISSN)

Vol. 36 13 116-128

Subject Categories

Business Administration

Information Science

Information Systemes, Social aspects



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