Assessing the breadth of open innovation practices: the impact on innovation performance

  • Gabriele Santoro
  • Alberto Ferraris
  • Stefano Bresciani
Keywords: open innovation; innovation performance; Italian firms; open innovation practices; internal R&D


Purpose of the paper: This research has a twofold purpose. First, it aims to identify open innovation practices (OIP) used by empirical studies in the context of the open innovation (OI) field. Second, it aims to test the inverted U-shaped relationship between the breadth of OIP and innovation performance.

Methodology: We followed two steps, conducting: a) a bibliographic analysis to identify the OIP already used in empirical studies; b) an empirical analysis with a sample of 184 Italian firms to test the relationship between the breadth of OIP and innovation performance, and the moderating role of internal R&D over the mentioned relationship.

Findings: The research identifies 16 OIP used by empirical studies and suggests that there is an inverted U-shaped relationship between the breadth of OIP and innovation performance. Furthermore, we did not find a moderating effect of the internal R&D on the above-mentioned relationship.

Research limits: The empirical analysis does not consider the effect of the single OIP. Then, our sample is heterogeneous involving different sectors and firm sizes. We acknowledge that innovation management changes depending of the sector’s features. Future studies could focus on specific sectors to further develop our understanding on this topic.

Practical implications: The research helps to understand: a) what are the OIP that firms can exploit to innovate, b) how literature has used these OIP in empirical studies, and, c) if too much openness, in terms of practices, is beneficial for the firm’s innovativeness or not.

Originality of the paper: The study offers an original and comprehensive view of openness based on OIP given that most of the empirical studies on OI focused on external sources of knowledge, rather than on practices. As a consequence, the variable breadth of OIP, that is the number of practices established by firms to innovate, is proposed. So, we position our paper within the main inbound OI literature proposing an alternative and complementary view of openness with regard to knowledge acquisition.


AHN J.M., JU Y., MOON T.H., MINSHALL T., PROBERT D., SOHN S.Y., MORTARA L. (2016), “Beyond absorptive capacity in open innovation process: the relationships between openness, capacities and firm performance”, Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, vol. 28, n. 9, pp. 1009-1028.

AHN J.M., MINSHALL T., MORTARA L. (2015), “Open innovation: a new classification and its impact on firm performance in innovative SMEs”, Journal of Innovation Management, vol. 3, n. 2, pp. 33-54.

AHN J.M., MORTARA L., MINSHALL T. (2013), “The effects of open innovation on firm performance: a capacity approach”, STI Policy Review, vol. 4, n. 1, pp. 79-93.

AHUJA G. (2000), “Collaboration networks, structural holes, and innovation: A longitudinal study”, Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 45, n. 3, pp. 425-455.

ALOINI D., PELLEGRINI L., LAZZAROTTI V., MANZINI R. (2015), “Technological strategy, open innovation and innovation performance: evidences on the basis of a structural-equation-model approach”, Measuring Business Excellence, vol. 19, n. 3, pp. 22-41.

AQUILANI B., ABBATE T., D’AMICO A., GATTI C. (2016), “Co-creare prodotti e processi con i clienti: i servizi degli Open Innovation Intermediaries (OII)”, Sinergie, vol. 33, n. 98, pp. 311-329.

BENGTSSON L., LAKEMOND N., LAZZAROTTI V., MANZINI R., PELLEGRINI L., TELL F. (2015), “Open to a select few? Matching partners and knowledge content for open innovation performance”, Creativity and Innovation Management, vol. 24, n. 1, pp. 72-86.

BENNER M.J., TUSHMAN M. (2002), “Process management and technological innovation: A longitudinal study of the photography and paint industries”, Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 47, n. 4, pp. 676-707.

BERCHICCI L. (2013), “Towards an open R&D system: Internal R&D investment, external knowledge acquisition and innovative performance”, Research Policy, vol. 42, n. 1, pp. 117-127.

BIANCHI M., CHIARONI D., CHIESA V., FRATTINI F. (2011), “Organizing for external technology commercialization: evidence from a multiple case study in the pharmaceutical industry”, R&D Management, vol. 41, n. 2, pp. 120-137.

BLINDENBACH-DRIESSEN F., ENDE J. (2014), “The locus of innovation: The effect of a separate innovation unit on exploration, exploitation, and ambidexterity in manufacturing and service firms”, Journal of Product Innovation Management, vol. 31, n. 5, pp. 1089-1105.

BLINDENBACH-DRIESSEN F., VAN DALEN J., VAN DEN ENDE J. (2010), “Subjective performance assessment of innovation projects”, Journal of Product Innovation Management, vol. 27, n. 4, pp. 572-592.

BOGERS M., CHESBROUGH H., MOEDAS C. (2018), “Open innovation: research, practices, and policies”, California Management Review, vol. 60, n. 2, pp. 5-16.

BRESCIANI S., FERRARIS A., DEL GIUDICE M. (2018), “The management of organizational ambidexterity through alliances in a new context of analysis: Internet of Things (IoT) smart city projects”, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, vol. 136, pp. 331-338.

BRESCIANI S., THRASSOU A., VRONTIS D. (2015), “Strategic R&D internationalisation in developing Asian countries??? the Italian experience”, World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development, vol. 11, n. 2/3, pp. 200-216.

BRUNSWICKER S., VANHAVERBEKE W. (2015), “Open innovation in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): External knowledge sourcing strategies and internal organizational facilitators”, Journal of Small Business Management, vol. 53, n. 4, pp. 1241-1263.

CALOGHIROU Y., KASTELLI I., TSAKANIKAS A. (2004), “Internal capabilities and external knowledge sources: complements or substitutes for innovative performance?”, Technovation, vol. 24, n. 1, pp. 29-39.

CAPONE F., LAZZERETTI L. (2017), “Interorganisational networks and proximity: an analysis of R&D networks for cultural goods”, Sinergie, vol. 34, n. 101, pp. 53-70.

CASSIMAN B., VEUGELERS R. (2006), “In search of complementarity in innovation strategy: Internal R&D and external knowledge acquisition”, Management Science, vol. 52, n. 1, pp. 68-82.

CHANDLER A.D. (1990), Strategy and structure: Chapters in the history of the industrial enterprise (Vol. 120), MIT press.

CHEN Y., VANHAVERBEKE W., DU J. (2016), “The interaction between internal R&D and different types of external knowledge sourcing: an empirical study of Chinese innovative firms”, R&D Management, vol. 46, n.3, pp. 1006-1023.

CHESBROUGH H., BRUNSWICKER S. (2013), Managing open innovation in large firms, Berkeley, CA, Fraunhofer Verlag.

CHESBROUGH H., CROWTHER A.K. (2006), “Beyond high tech: early adopters of open innovation in other industries”, R&D Management, vol. 36, n. 3, pp. 229-236.

CHESBROUGH H.W. (2003), Open innovation: The new imperative for creating and profiting from technology, Harvard Business Press, Boston.

CHESBROUGH H., LETTL C., RITTER T. (2018), “Value creation and value capture in open innovation”, Journal of Product Innovation Management, Vol. 35, n. 6, pp. 930-938.

CHIANG Y.H., HUNG K.P. (2010), “Exploring open search strategies and perceived innovation performance from the perspective of inter-organizational knowledge flows”, R&D Management, vol. 40, n. 3, pp. 292-299.

COHEN W.M., LEVINTHAL D.A. (1990), “Absorptive capacity: A new perspective on learning and innovation”, Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 35, n. 1, pp. 128-152.

CRUZ-GONZÁLEZ J., LÓPEZ-SÁEZ P., NAVAS-LÓPEZ J.E., DELGADO-VERDE M. (2015), “Open search strategies and firm performance: The different moderating role of technological environmental dynamism”, Technovation, vol. 35, pp. 32-45.

DU J., LETEN B., VANHAVERBEKE W. (2014), “Managing open innovation projects with science-based and market-based partners”, Research Policy, vol. 43, n. 5, pp. 828-840.

EISENHARDT K.M., SCHOONHOVEN C.B. (1996), “Resource-based view of strategic alliance formation: Strategic and social effects in entrepreneurial firms”, Organization Science, vol. 7, n. 2, pp. 136-150.

ENKEL E., GASSMANN O., CHESBROUGH H. (2009), “Open R&D and open innovation: exploring the phenomenon”, R&D Management, vol. 39, n. 4, pp. 311-316.

ESCRIBANO A., FOSFURI A., TRIBÓ J.A. (2009), “Managing external knowledge flows: The moderating role of absorptive capacity”, Research Policy, vol. 38, n. 1, pp. 96-105.

FAEMS D., JANSSENS M., MADHOK A., VAN LOOY B. (2008), “Toward an integrative perspective on alliance governance: Connecting contract design, trust dynamics, and contract application”, Academy of Management Journal, vol. 51, n. 6, pp. 1053-1078.

FERNANDES C.I., FERREIRA J.J. (2013), “Knowledge spillovers: cooperation between universities and KIBS”, R&D Management, vol. 43, n. 5, pp. 461-472.

FERRARIS A., GRIECO C. (2015), “The role of the innovation catalyst in social innovation-an Italian case study”, Sinergie, vol. 33, n. 97, pp. 127-144.

FERRARIS A., SANTORO G., DEZI L. (2017), “How MNC’s subsidiaries may improve their innovative performance? The role of external sources and knowledge management capabilities”, Journal of Knowledge Management, vol. 21, n. 3, pp. 540-552.

FERRARIS A., SANTORO G., BRESCIANI S., CARAYANNIS E.G. (2018), “HR practices for explorative and exploitative alliances in smart cities: Evidences from smart city managers’ perspective”, Management Decision, vol. 56, n. 6, pp. 1183-1197.

FERRARIS A., SANTORO G., SCUOTTO V. (2018), “Dual relational embeddedness and knowledge transfer in European multinational corporations and subsidiaries”, Journal of Knowledge Management,

GARRIGA H., VON KROGH G., SPAETH S. (2013), “How constraints and knowledge impact open innovation”, Strategic Management Journal, vol. 34, n. 9, pp. 1134-1144.

GRONUM S., VERREYNNE M.L., KASTELLE T. (2012), “The role of networks in small and medium-sized enterprise innovation and firm performance”, Journal of Small Business Management, vol. 50, n. 2, pp. 257-282.

GULATI R. (1998), “Alliances and networks”, Strategic Management Journal, vol. 19, n. 4, pp. 293-317.

HAANS R.F., PIETERS C., HE Z.L. (2016), “Thinking about U: Theorizing and testing U-and inverted U-shaped relationships in strategy research”, Strategic Management Journal, vol. 37, n. 7, pp. 1177-1195.

HAWES J.M., CRITTENDEN W.F. (1984), “A taxonomy of competitive retailing strategies”, Strategic Management Journal, vol. 5, n. 3, pp. 275-287.

HUERGO E., JAUMANDREU J. (2004), “How does probability of innovation change with firm age?”, Small Business Economics, vol. 22, n. 3, pp. 193-207.

HUNG K.P., CHOU C. (2013), “The impact of open innovation on firm performance: The moderating effects of internal R&D and environmental turbulence”, Technovation, vol. 33, n. 10, pp. 368-380.

JANSEN J.J., VERA D., CROSSAN M. (2009), “Strategic leadership for exploration and exploitation: The moderating role of environmental dynamism”, The Leadership Quarterly, vol. 20, n. 1, pp. 5-18.

JAWORSKI B.J., KOHLI A.K. (1993), “Market orientation: antecedents and consequences”, The Journal of Marketing, vol. 57, n. 3, pp. 53-70.

KANUK L., BERENSON C. (1975), “Mail surveys and response rates: A literature review”, Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 12, n. 4, pp. 440-453.

KATILA R. (2002), “New product search over time: past ideas in their prime?”, Academy of Management Journal, vol. 45, n. 5, pp. 995-1010.

KATILA R., AHUJA G. (2002), “Something old, something new: A longitudinal study of search behaviour and new product introduction”, Academy of Management Journal, vol. 45, n. 6, pp. 1183-1194.

KOPUT K.W. (1997), “A chaotic model of innovative search: some answers, many questions”, Organization Science, vol. 8, n. 5, pp. 528-542.

KUTVONEN A. (2011), “Strategic application of outbound open innovation”, European Journal of Innovation Management, vol. 14, n. 4, pp. 460-474.

LASAGNI A. (2012), “How can external relationships enhance innovation in SMEs? New evidence for Europe”, Journal of Small Business Management, vol. 50, n. 2, pp. 310-339.

LAURSEN K., SALTER A. (2006), “Open for innovation: the role of openness in explaining innovation performance among UK manufacturing firms”, Strategic Management Journal, vol. 27, n. 2, pp. 131-150.

MARX M., HSU D.H. (2015), “Strategic switchbacks: Dynamic commercialization strategies for technology entrepreneurs”, Research Policy, vol. 44, n. 10, pp. 1815-1826.

MICHELINO F., LAMBERTI E., CAMMARANO A., CAPUTO M. (2015), “Measuring open innovation in the Bio-Pharmaceutical industry”, Creativity and Innovation Management, vol. 24, n. 1, pp. 4-28.

NIETO M.J., SANTAMARÍA L. (2007), “The importance of diverse collaborative networks for the novelty of product innovation”, Technovation, vol. 27, n. 6, pp. 367-377.

OCASIO W. (1997), “Towards an attention-based view of the firm”, Strategic Management Journal, vol. 18, pp. 187-206.

PARIDA V., WESTERBERG M., FRISHAMMAR J. (2012), “Inbound open innovation activities in high-tech SMEs: the impact on innovation performance”, Journal of Small Business Management, vol. 50, n. 2, pp. 283-309.

PETRONI G., VENTURINI K., VERBANO C. (2012), “Open innovation and new issues in R&D organization and personnel management”, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, vol. 23, n. 1, pp. 147-173.

PISANO G.P. (1990), “The R&D boundaries of the firm: an empirical analysis”, Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 35, n. 1, pp. 153-176.

RIGBY D., ZOOK C. (2002), “Open-market innovation”, Harvard Business Review, vol. 80, n. 10, pp. 80-93.

ROTHWELL R. (1992), “Successful industrial innovation: critical factors for the 1990s”, R&D Management, vol. 22, n. 3, pp. 221-240.

SALGE T.O., BOHNÉ T.M., FARCHI T., PIENING E.P. (2012), “Harnessing the value of open innovation: The moderating role of innovation management”, International Journal of Innovation Management, vol. 16, n. 3, 1240005.

SANTORO G., BRESCIANI S., PAPA A. (2018a), “Collaborative modes with Cultural and Creative Industries and innovation performance: The moderating role of heterogeneous sources of knowledge and absorptive capacity”, Technovation.

SANTORO G., FERRARIS A., VRONTIS D. (2018b), “Open social innovation: towards a refined definition looking to actors and processes”, Sinergie, vol. 36, n. 105, pp. 25-42.

SANTORO G., VRONTIS D., PASTORE A. (2017), “External knowledge sourcing and new product development: evidence from the Italian food and beverage industry”, British Food Journal, vol. 119, n. 11, pp. 2373-2387.

SCHROLL A., MILD A. (2011), “Open innovation modes and the role of internal R&D: An empirical study on open innovation adoption in Europe”, European Journal of Innovation Management, vol. 14, n. 4, pp. 475-495.

SCUOTTO V., SANTORO G., PAPA A., CARAYANNIS E.G. (2017), “Triggering open service innovation through social media networks”, Mercati e Competitività, vol. 3, pp. 21-40.

SPITHOVEN A., CLARYSSE B., KNOCKAERT M. (2011), “Building absorptive capacity to organise inbound open innovation in traditional industries”, Technovation, vol. 31, n. 1, pp. 10-21.

SPITHOVEN A., VANHAVERBEKE W., ROIJAKKERS N. (2013), “Open innovation practices in SMEs and large enterprises”, Small Business Economics, vol. 41, n. 3, pp. 537-562.

TARDIVO G., SANTORO G., FERRARIS A. (2017), “The role of public-private partnerships in developing open social innovation: the case of GoogleGlass4Lis”, World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development, vol. 13, n. 5-6, pp. 580-592.

TETHER B.S., TAJAR A. (2008), “Beyond industry-university links: Sourcing knowledge for innovation from consultants, private research organisations and the public science-base”, Research Policy, vol. 37, n. 6, pp. 1079-1095.

TROTT P., HARTMANN D.A.P. (2009), “Why 'open innovation' is old wine in new bottles”, International Journal of Innovation Management, vol. 13, n. 04, pp. 715-736.

TSAI W. (2001), “Knowledge transfer in intraorganizational networks: Effects of network position and absorptive capacity on business unit innovation and performance”, Academy of Management Journal, vol. 44, n. 5, pp. 996-1004.

VAN DE VRANDE V. (2013), “Balancing your technology-sourcing portfolio: How sourcing mode diversity enhances innovative performance”, Strategic Management Journal, vol. 34, n. 5, pp. 610-621.

VAN DE VRANDE V., DE JONG J.P., VANHAVERBEKE W., DE ROCHEMONT M. (2009), “Open innovation in SMEs: Trends, motives and management challenges”, Technovation, vol. 29, n. 6, pp. 423-437.

VAN DER MEER H. (2007), “Open innovation-the Dutch treat: challenges in thinking in business models”, Creativity and Innovation Management, vol. 16, n. 2, pp. 192-202.

VEUGELERS R., CASSIMAN B. (1999), “Make and buy in innovation strategies: evidence from Belgian manufacturing firms”, Research Policy, vol. 28, n. 1, pp. 63-80.

VRONTIS D., THRASSOU A., SANTORO G., PAPA A. (2017), “Ambidexterity, external knowledge and performance in knowledge-intensive firms”, The Journal of Technology Transfer, vol. 42, n. 2, pp. 374-388.

WEST J., BOGERS M. (2014), “Leveraging external sources of innovation: a review of research on open innovation”, Journal of Product Innovation Management, vol. 31, n. 4, pp. 814-831.

ZAHRA S.A., GEORGE G. (2002), “Absorptive capacity: A review, reconceptualization, and extension”, Academy of Management Review, vol. 27, n. 2, pp. 185-203.