How do R&D project networks support the adoption of open innovation practice?

  • Francesco Capone
  • Vincenzo Zampi
  • Niccolò Innocenti
Keywords: Open innovation, R&D networks, multiple case study, ego-network


Purpose of the paper: The aim of this paper is to investigate how firms develop the transition from closed to open innovation and how this process occurs throughout R&D project networks.

Methodology: The work carries out a multiple case study analysis of 8 Tuscan companies that have developed R&D projects in inter-organizational networks during the period under analysis. It investigates the opening of the innovation process starting from the firms’ ego-networks over a period of several years.

Findings: Results show that small and medium firms are not lagging behind large firms in the adoption of open innovation practices and that the industry where firms operate is not a discriminating factor for opening up of firms’ innovation process. Besides, the technological complexity of the production process that companies adopt is one of the main determinants in the implementation of open innovation practices. 

Research limits: The study deals with temporary project networks, which represent the tip of the iceberg of the relational innovation processes of the analyzed

Practical implications: The study underlines the importance of opening an innovation process outside of the boundaries of the firms through the privileged tools
of temporary R&D networks that are financed by public policies. Managers and entrepreneurs should carefully dedicate resources and competences to this process, in accordance with the increasing relevance of the open innovation paradigm.

Originality of the paper: Three network configurations of the opening of the innovation process within R&D networks are described in order to contribute to our knowledge on the transition from closed to open innovation in small and large firms.