Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
21-PM3-02: ST8.4 - Open Innovation in SMEs
Friday, 21/June/2019:
4:45pm - 6:15pm

Session Chair: Romaric Servajean-Hilst, Ecole polytechnique
Location: Amphi Sauvy

Session Abstract

This track aims to examine current research on open innovation (OI) in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In fact, because OI has been mainly developed for large companies, its definition and its identifying characteristics do not always take into account the contexts and specific characteristics of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). Indeed, SMEs find it challenging to engage in OI. They are sometimes hampered by their inherent limitations, such as scarcity of resources, weakly developed innovation processes, and unstructured internal capabilities. On the other hand, they are less bureaucratic, are more flexible in decision-making, take more risks, and often have specialized knowledge in a specific market. As a result, some SMEs manage to meet the challenges of OI while others do not.

We want to explore the specific characteristics of OI in SMEs (practices, tools, players, etc.) and to identify the determinants that enable SMEs to overcome its limitations and innovate openly. Although there is some recent research on OI within the SMEs, this field is still largely unexplored. Little is known about the characteristics and determinants of OI in such companies Thus, there have recently been new calls to clarify the concept in the context of SMEs, and this proposition will be a response to these calls.

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Contributions of Research and Technology Organizations (RTOs) for the adoption of Open Innovation Strategies (OIEs) in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs).

Silvio Bitencourt da Silva1, Alexandre Zigunovas Junior2, Daniel Pedro Puffal3, Luciana Maines da Silva4



We identify the growth of innovation-driven institutions in different countries, such as RTOs in which innovations are generated, technologies developed and research carried out in Research and development (R&D) efforts in SMEs in order to stay efficient in the global market and contribute with national development.


Existing research shows that SMEs organize and manage Open Innovation (OI) differently from large enterprises. Different sources of open innovation such as RTOs, or consultants, commercial labs or universities, as well as fairs and exhibitions have not been thoroughly examined by researchers in the field of OI in SMEs (Stanko et al., 2017; Vanhaverbeke, 2017, Vanhaverbeke et al., 2018). IO in SMEs are adopted based on SMEs strategic needs and require that IO mechanisms be designed in a specific way (Vanhaverbeke, 2017, Vanhaverbeke et al., 2018). Thus, discussing the RTOs' contributions to OI in SMEs constitutes a relevant theoretical field of study (Hossain & Kauranen, 2016; Vanhaverbeke, 2017; Vanhaverbeke et al., 2018). In addition, the RTOs have been receiving attention in some international studies relating to the field of OI studies contributing to pushing the frontier of academic research on OI in SMEs foward (Barlatier et al., 2017; Giannopoulou, 2019).

Literature Gap

The RTOs tend to be overlooked in the academic literature (Barge-Gil et al., 2011, Readman et al., 2015, Intarakumnerd and Goto, 2018, Comin et al., 2018, Giannopoulou, 2019). The contribution of RTOs for the adoption of OIEs in SMEs raises several theoretical challenges (Albors-Garrigós et al., 2014; Garengo, 2018).

Research Questions

Determined for practical and intellectual reasons in the OI field, having the object of discussion the contributions of RTOs for the adoption of OIEs in SMEs, in this work we intend to answer the following research question: what are the contributions of RTOs to the adoption of OIEs in SMEs?


This study was based on a qualitative approach, characterized as a case study in Brazil's SMEs, located in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, which was highlighted in the first edition of Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (SEBRAE ) Innovation Fund Call, having the largest number of projects approved at national level (27.5%). Different sources were used, including direct and indirect documentation provided by the RTOs, SMEs and SEBRAE. The analysis and discussion of the findings was carried out through categories of analysis from the theoretical basis of the resource-based view of the firm (RBV).

Empirical Material

We collected the data in Google Forms between november 2018 and february 2019, and the responses were recorded in an organized and automatic way. Information and graphs were consolidated in real time. In addition, the innovation projets submitted to the SEBRAE Innovation Fund Call and legal or complementary documents were accessed, as well as the Call itself and the reports presented by the SMEs after the development of the proposed innovations. Responses were obtained from 27 SMEs totaling 64.28% of the total of 52 SMEs selected from the 189 approved nationally in more than 650 projects that responded to the first edition of the Call for Proposals in July 2016. The State of Rio Grande do Sul totaled 27.5% of projects, followed by Minas Gerais (16.40%), Santa Catarina (11.64%), Paraná (9.52%) and Rio de Janeiro (8.46%) (InovAtiva Brasil, 2016). We also used data from the "Study and Mapping of the Innovation Ecosystem for SMEs in Rio Grande do Sul," developed by the SEBRAE to diagnose the main agents related to the movement of innovative entrepreneurship in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. obtained from 48 RTOs, totaling 88.89% of a total of 54 RTOs mapped in this State.


The findings suggest that the role of RTOs in the adoption of OIEs in SMEs can be expressed through three main activities that were highlighted throughout the development phases of projects approved under the SEBRAE Innovation Fund Call. The first one is aimed at strengthening relations between RTOs and SMEs in their own agenda of interaction around the creation of innovations. It involves shaping specific OI mechanisms for SMEs and building connections between other actors in a network of innovation especially large enterprises or through their insertion into innovation ecosystems. The second is that RTOs can intermediate aspects of OI creating convenience for SMEs that usually have limited skills and resources for innovation. These conveniences involve the establishment of channels of communication, specific support and access to knowledge, as well as the availability or intermediation of funds for the creation of innovations by SMEs. The third is to facilitate the initial stages of innovation creation, development and formalization through the multi-method approaches according to the specific needs of SMEs, such as: benchmarking, business plans, competitive analysis, focus groups, identifying and engaging stakeholders, market research and surveys, project management, safeguarding intellectual properties, systems, and business modeling.

Contribution to Scholarship

The main theoretical implication of this study involves the generation of new insights about the RTOs' contributions to the adoption of OI strategies in SMEs, taking as reference the elements of the theoretical basis resource-based view of the firm (RBV) in relation to the the expansion of understanding that resources are only internal and that distinguishes shared resources from non-shared resources. The sharing of resources of RTOs with SMEs and of these with RTOs can generate competitive advantages for SMEs and also for RTOs. The findings suggest the adoption by SMEs and RTOs of coupled open innovation strategies that involves bidirectional and interactive flows. We explain the creation of innovations by the adoption of interactive open innovation that leads to the creation of value through the key process of creative collaboration that happens between SMEs and RTOs interested in the creation of innovations through cocreation of value.

Contribution to Practice

The main managerial implication involves the adoption of the open innovation strategy to enhance the managerial practices of the RTOs in the face of the challenges of organizing and managing OI in SMEs. SMEs as the creators / developers of innovations. RTOs aiding internal R & D efforts in SMEs.

Combining the efforts of SMEs and RTOs through value creation there is the potential to establish a management model that leads to the adoption of OIEs in SMEs including the possibility of combining RTOs and SMEs in different formats with the participation of other significant actors in innovation networks.


The relevance of this research to the key topics of the conference in general and to the theme of this particular edition is in the discussion about aiding internal R & D efforts bridging research with RTOs, SMEs and other actors in innovation networks that enable SMEs to innovate openly.


Albors-Garrigós, J., Rincon-Diaz, C. A., & Igartua-Lopez, J. I. (2014). Research technology organisations as leaders of R&D collaboration with SMEs: role, barriers and facilitators. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 26(1), 37-53.

Barge-Gil, A., Santamaría, L., & Modrego, A. (2011). Complementarities between universities and technology institutes: New empirical lessons and perspectives. European Planning Studies, 19(2), 195-215.

Barlatier, P. J., Giannopoulou, E., & Pénin, J. (2017). Exploring the Role of Open Innovation Intermediaries: The Case of Public Research Valorization. In Global Intermediation and Logistics Service Providers (pp. 87-103). IGI Global.

Comin, D., Licht, G., Pellens, M., & Schubert, T. (2018). Do companies benefit from public research organizations? The impact of the Fraunhofer Society in Germany. Papers in Innovation Studies, (2018/7).

Garengo, P. (2018). How bridging organisations manage technology transfer in SMEs: an empirical investigation. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 1-15.

Giannopoulou, E., Barlatier, P. J., & Pénin, J. (2019). Same but different? Research and technology organizations, universities and the innovation activities of firms. Research Policy, 48(1), 223-233.

Hossain, M. and Kauranen, I. (2016). Open innovation in SMEs: a systematic literature review. Journal of Strategy and Management 9(1), pp. 58–73.

InovAtiva Brasil (2016). Retrieved from: [Accessed 22 february 2019]

Intarakumnerd, P., & Goto, A. (2018). Role of public research institutes in national innovation systems in industrialized countries: The cases of Fraunhofer, NIST, CSIRO, AIST, and ITRI. Research Policy, 47(7), 1309-1320.

Readman, J., Bessant, J., Neely, A., & Twigg, D. (2018). Positioning UK research and technology organizations as outward‐facing technology‐bases. R&D Management, 48(1), 109-120.

Stanko, M. A., Fisher, G. J., & Bogers, M. (2017). Under the wide umbrella of open innovation. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 34(4), 543-558.

Vanhaverbeke, W. (2017). Managing Open Innovation in SMEs. Cambridge University Press.

Vanhaverbeke, W., Frattini, F., Roijakkers, N., & Usman, M. (2018). Researching Open Innovation in SMEs. World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd.

Unlocking the Black-Box of Open Innovation Capabilities in SMEs

Ilma Pranciulyte-Bagdziuniene1, Iryna Maliatsina2, Monika Petraite1, Daria Podmetina2

1Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania; 2Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland


SMEs have distinct capability and resource profile due its size and organizational structure limitations. The OI capabilities enabling SMEs to improve performance from opening up their borders and implications for sustaining such capabilities are addressed by this research.


The dynamic development of knowledge capacities has been recognised as essential for achieving profitability from OI practices adoption (Chesbrough, 2006). The critical competencies enabling implementation of OI practices have been first explored by Lichtenthaler and Lichtenthaler (2009) who devised a comprehensive process‐based framework that complements the absorptive capacity concept (Cohen and Levinthal, 1990) and describes capabilities required to explore, exploit and retain internal and external knowledge. Following the research trend, capabilities perspective on OI has been addressed by many research streams (e.g. Hosseini et al., 2016; Hafkesbrink & Schroll, 2014). Cheng and Chen (2013) studied the roles of dynamic innovation capabilities and OI activities in the context of the NPD. The set of recommendation for OI competence development in industry has been proposed and tested by Podmetina et al., 2017. The role of networking for facilitation of OI implementation among SMEs has been studied thoughtfully by Lee et al. (2010).

Literature Gap

Studies on OI capabilities are focused mainly on organizational rather than individual level analysis (i.e. Lichtenthaler, 2008, 2011; Bogers et al., 2018). This paper addresses the gap and provides the scholars with strong empirical evidence while testing mediating effects of organizational capabilities for individual OI competencies.

Research Questions

In the response to subsequent call for empirical evaluation of how OI capabilities affect firm’s performance, in this paper we attempt to analyze how individual OI competences in SMEs impact their performance advancement and how organizational capabilities for OI enable individual OI competencies for SMEs innovation performance advancement.


The research instrument has shown moderate internal consistency reliability. Following the methodology process, we conducted factor analysis for variables formation and verification and continued with partial least squares structural equation model (PLS-SEM) analysis for 12 hypotheses testing. PLS path modelling is recommended to be used for an early theory development studies for examining of the high complex models with large number of variables (Hair et al., 2011), which is the case. The model tests the relationship between dependent variable – competencies for OI on individual level, and independent variable – innovation performance advancement as mediated by organizational capabilities for OI.

Empirical Material

The data used for this research has been collected using a questionnaire developed by an international team of researchers and included 84 indicators. In total, 266 responses were collected from innovative Lithuanian SMEs. Companies from more than 15 industries participated in online survey with “Wholesale and retail trade” representing the largest group (12.8 percent). Final sample consists of micro enterprises with less than ten employees (50.8 percent) and small enterprises with 10-49 workers (49.2 percent).


Critical findings of the empirical study demonstrate that capabilities for OI on organizational level play the role of mediator between competences for OI on individual level and innovation performance advancement. In this regard, developed capabilities for OI on organizational level (such as organizational culture openness, learning and trust, etc.) is a strong tool to enhance the effectiveness of OI competencies of individuals (such as creativity, adaptability and flexibility, strategic thinking, etc.). Therefore, it can be a valuable source of information for companies to develop competencies for OI at the firm level to better utilize the OI competencies of their human recourses. Our analysis answers the question of the research and indicates that SMEs in order to improve new product market acceptance, success of collaboration with external partners, etc. should develop competences and capabilities for OI at all levels. In addition, to enhance specifically individual level competencies firm should first of all open its organizational culture by recognizing and utilizing the value of external knowledge acquisition and sharing. Entire statistically tested findings partially destroy assumptions that SMEs could be successful by investing in individual level OI capabilities only. Organizational capabilities are critically important for OI implementation as well.

Contribution to Scholarship

This paper explores individual competencies and organizational capabilities for OI and how SMEs can explore, transform, and exploit acquired knowledge and technologies for innovation. Unlike the earlier studies on OI capabilities focused mainly on organizational level of analysis, this paper explores the relationship between individual competencies and OI performance advancement in the company. This paper not only presents a rigorous theoretical analysis on OI, but also provides the scholars with strong empirical evidence.

Contribution to Practice

The results of the empirical study provide practitioners with overview of the capabilities and individual OI competences in SMEs. Armed with that knowledge, practitioners in SMEs can define the scope of their OI initiatives that will advance innovation performance of their organization. The results can be used as foundation for prioritizing, selecting, and operationalizing capabilities and individual competences areas for OI.


This year’s special track on OI in SMEs is thoughtfully addressed in this study. Within our research the focus is given to OI organizational capabilities development. As a call contribution we attempted to clarify the OI concept in the context of SMEs by presenting the relevant empirical evidence and analysis.


Bogers, M., Chesbrough, H., & Moedas, C. (2018). Open innovation: research, practices, and policies. California Management Review, 60(2), 5-16.

Chesbrough, H. (2006). Open business models: How to thrive in the new innovation landscape. Harvard Business Press.

Cohen, W. M., & Levinthal, D. A. (1990). Absorptive capacity: A new perspective on learning and innovation. Administrative science quarterly, 35(1), 128-152.

Cheng C. & Chen J‐S, (2013). Breakthrough innovation: the roles of dynamic innovation capabilities and open innovation activities. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 28 Issue: 5, pp.444-454

Lichtenthaler, U., & Lichtenthaler, E. (2009). A capability‐based framework for open innovation: Complementing absorptive capacity. Journal of management studies, 46(8), 1315-1338.

Hair J., Christian R., Marko S. (2011). PLS-sem: Indeed a silver bullet. The Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice. 19. 139-151.

Hafkesbrink, J., & Schroll, M. (2014). Ambidextrous organizational and individual competencies in open innovation: the dawn of a new research agenda. Journal of innovation Management, 2(1), 9-46.

Hosseini, S., Kees, A., Manderscheid, J., Röglinger, M., & Rosemann, M. (2017). What does it take to implement open innovation? Towards an integrated capability framework. Business Process Management Journal, 23(1), 87-107.

Podmetina, D., Soderquist, K. E., Petraite, M., & Teplov, R. (2018). Developing a competency model for open innovation: From the individual to the organisational level. Management Decision, 56(6), 1306-1335.

Open Innovation Adoption Patterns and Strategies: an Empirical Analysis

Daria Podmetina1, Cristina Marullo2, Ekaterina Albats1, Iryna Maliatsina1

1Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland; 2Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna


Open innovation (OI) as managerial practice is not only widely studied by academic research, but also actively used by practitioners. While some scholars criticise OI for conceptual ambiguity (e.g. Trott and Hartmann, 2009), the proponents emphasise the importance of OI theory development for today’s companies’ strategy (Chesbrough and Bogers, 2014).


According to Gassmann and Enkel (2004), three core archetypes characterise the implementation of OI, namely outside-in, inside-out, and coupled processes. Dahlander and Gann (2010) enriched this framework by classifying OI practices offering different forms of compensation (i.e. non-pecuniary and pecuniary dimensions). While most OI literature has operationalised firms’ openness with the breadth and the depth of external knowledge sources used for innovation (Laursen and Salter, 2006), configurational studies observed different patterns of OI strategies (i.e. firms’ OI profiles) (Lazzarotti and Manzini, 2009; Barge-Gil, 2010; Brunswicker and Vanhaverbeke 2015). Recent studies (XX, 2019)* show a mismatch in the perception of the OI concept between the academic and the business world, as only a few innovation activities counted as ‘open’ by innovation scholars appear to affect companies’ self-perception of openness.

Literature Gap

Based on prior research (XX, 2019)* we further investigate the gap between the understanding of OI in business and academia through an original empirical approach. Few studies, to date, focus on the relationship between companies’ engagement in activities commonly associated with OI and companies’ self-identification as OI adopters.

Research Questions

The Research Questions are:

• Are there significantly different patterns of how companies adopt OI, and if so, can common OI strategies be identified?

• Is the selected OI strategy reflected in the company’s “attitude to openness”?

• Is the selected OI strategy reflected in the companies self-perception of “openness”?


The study is quantitative by nature, and it uses survey as a research strategy. Research design has four stages: 1) definition of the framework, questionnaire development and sampling (stratified); 2) online survey; 3) data analysis – use of clustering algorithms to identify companies’ profiles and Item Response Theory (IRT ) models to estimate firms’ “attitude to openness” as a latent trait; 4) elaboration of the results: openness and self-perception of openness in different OI profiles. The main variable used in the analysis is OI activities adoption, based on Chesbrough and Bruswicker (2013); interpreted by authors, validated by experts.

Empirical Material

The main language of the survey was English, but the questionnaire was translated into 12 other languages. The survey was a part of large-scale European project aiming at identifying industrial needs for skills and abilities required for OI specialists. The sampling was stratified by economic significance criteria of top 5-10 industries in for each country. The online survey via Webropol was launched in September 2014 and ended in June 2015. The survey covered all major European regions: Eastern, Western, Southern and Northern Europe. We also included countries at various stages of development (classification based on the Global Competitiveness Report). We approached innovation managers or R&D managers, directors and vice-directors as key respondents. The average response rate was about 10 %: in total, 525 (N=525) responses from 38 countries were collected. For the purpose of this study, we considered only private companies, therefore universities and governmental organizations were excluded from the analysis. As a result, the final sample consisted of 461 firms (over 40% of large firms, 40% of SMEs and almost 20%, of micro-firms).


We identified 6 strategies as configurations of OI practices adopted by companies. 2 polar groups emerge: very-active OI adopters (companies active in both inbound and outbound OI), and “non-adopters”. The IRT analysis reports significant differences in the means of “attitude to openness” between the two groups. We also identify a group of “Sources seekers” (firms mostly active in external search and networking) –and two similar groups of disruptive collaborative innovators: “picky selectors” (utilizing external knowledge to influence industry standards) and “beginners”, characterized by external knowledge search to “develop a new offering”. Overall, the 6 groups are more actively involved into inbound OI rather than in outbound and the majority of companies are active in non-pecuniary rather than in pecuniary OI modes, with the exception of the very-active adopters.. We find that the less companies are adopting outbound OI even being active in inbound type of activities, the less they tend to admit that they adopt OI. Active adopters acknowledge themselves as open innovators, while low adopters do realize that their innovation strategy is closed. However, the perception is not so univocal for the other groups. The difficulty coefficients estimated through the IRT model provide strong statistical support to such results.

Contribution to Scholarship

This study is a starting point in stimulating the debate among OI management scholars about the differences in perceptions towards OI. In particular, this paper contributes to identifying and analyzing the gap between the existing theoretical concept of “openness” and the current business perception. The outcomes of this paper can therefore contribute to further research on the conceptualization and measurement of OI. The most important contribution to scientific literature is the support we found to the last definition of OI by Henry Chesbrough (2014), that OI is about combination of inbound and outbound activities. Companies much more often report themselves as OI adopters, when they clearly adopt both inbound and outbound activities.

Thus, the results of this paper are useful for the researchers studying OI, the business representatives searching for their OI strategy as well as for policy makers evaluating the level of the OI activities adoption.

Contribution to Practice

The practicing managers will benefit from academic knowledge and business perception insights on open innovation as well as from best practices of OI adoption leading to higher performance. Managers can learn from systematic classification of OI activities by testing the current situation in their firms, adjust the open innovation approach and to define the perspective directions for further development of innovation strategy.


This submission contributes to key theme of R&D Management conference “The Innovation Challenge: Bridging Research, Industry and Society” with addressing the challenge of academic and business perception of open innovation.


Barge-Gil, A. (2010), Open, semi-open and closed innovators: towards an explanation of degree of openness, Industry and innovation, 17(6), pp.577-607.

Chesbrough, H. and Bogers, M. (2014), Explicating open innovation: Clarifying an emerging paradigm for understanding innovation, In Chesbrough, H., Vanhaverbeke, W. and West J. (Eds.), New Frontiers in Open Innovation: 3-28, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chesbrough, H. and Brunswicker, S. (2013), Managing open innovation in large firms, Fraunhofer Verlag.

Chesbrough, H. and Brunswicker, S. (2014), A fad or a phenomenon?: The adoption of open innovation practices in large firms, Research-Technology Management, 57(2), 16-25

Dahlander, L. and Gann, D.M. (2010), How open is innovation, Research policy, 39(6), pp.699-709.

Gassmann, O. and Enkel, E. (2004), Towards a theory of open innovation: three core process archetypes, R&D management conference, Vol. 6, No. 0, pp. 1-18).

Henkel, J. (2006), Selective revealing in open innovation processes: The case of embedded Linux, Research policy, 35(7), pp.953-969.

Laursen K., & Salter A. (2006), Open for innovation: the role of openness in explaining innovation performance among U.K. manufacturing firms, Strategic Management Journal, vol. 27, Issue 2, pp. 131-150.

Lazzarotti, V. and Manzini, R. (2009), Different modes of open innovation: a theoretical framework and an empirical study, International journal of innovation management, 13(04), pp.615-636.

Trott, P. and Hartmann, D. A. P. (2009), Why'open innovation'is old wine in new bottles, International Journal of Innovation Management, 13(04), 715-736.