Open within a box: an analysis of open innovation patterns within Canadian aerospace companies


  • Fabiano Armellini
  • Catherine Beaudry
  • Paulo Carlos Kaminski



open innovation, aerospace industry, Canada, innovation management


Purpose of the paper: This paper investigates whether and how aerospace firms in Quebec (Canada) engage open innovation within R&D strategies.

Originality of the paper: Despite the increasing interest of open innovation among scholars and practitioners, very few studies tackle the topic within traditional high-tech industry sectors, such as aerospace.

Methodology: This paper critically analyzes data from a survey carried out through in-company questionnaire-structured interviews with R&D senior management of 31 companies in the Quebec aerospace cluster. The survey addresses a wide range of innovative and collaborative practices often associated with open innovation, including managerial, cultural and strategic aspects of the concept.

Findings: The research indicates on an exploratory basis that innovation in the sector is product-oriented, with low adoption of formal intellectual-property (IP) protection mechanisms (e.g., patents) compared to strategic ones (e.g., secrecy and complexity of design). We found significant evidence of collaboration in the sample, ranging from external sourcing to co-development with strong support from local government, universities and research institutes. However, these open approaches are mostly confined within the boundaries of the aerospace industry and, therefore, not part of diversification and expansion strategies, but a natural consequence of complementarities required to develop complex aerospace products.

Practical implications: The paper promotes a discussion of the possible consequences of engaging in such limited open-innovation strategies in a world of rapid technological changes with significant risk of substitute technologies replacing entire niche markets. Also at risk are business opportunities that these knowledge-intensive companies lose when they do not disseminate internal technologies into different markets.

Research limits: All analyses in this paper are exploratory. This is mainly due to the number of samples, which is small in absolute terms, although representative in terms of the universe of analysis. This factor also limited our statistical analyses to non-parametric methods.


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