Which one goes well with? Exploring the link between theoretical perspectives and industry contexts in Open Innovation research

Andres Ramirez


Purpose. The aim of this paper is twofold. First, to summarize the main content, theoretical perspectives and research directions of future research on Open Innovation (OI) stated in highly cited literature reviews (LRs). Second, to analyse and discuss the link between the industry contexts with the most used theoretical perspectives used in OI research as well as its application.

Methodology. A combined method to review all the relevant literature was used. First, a meta-review of all the highly cited OI literature reviews known to the author was conducted. Then, once the keywords related to several industries and sectors, as well as particular theoretical approaches were identified, the software Publish or Perish was used to retrieve and analyse the articles titles, abstracts, and keywords. Finally, various specific links between OI context and theories were identified and proposed with a qualitative approach.

Results. From the available OI literature reviews, there are 9 publications that are highly cited and that seem to have set the trend in the context and theoretical perspectives used on OI research. Due to the different lens in which the phenomena of OI can be studied, several theoretical perspectives have been used by academics. The most used ones and explicitly stated by authors include the resource-based view, dynamic capabilities, ambidexterity, exploration and exploitation, user-driven innovation and technology-base view. The knowledge-base view and absorptive capacity are two additional approaches that have also gained relevance in the last years. Other approaches such as complementary assets, contingency, network, or institutional theories are less frequently used. Regarding the researched contexts. Regarding the industry contexts where most research on OI has been conducted comprise mainly ICT, chemical, pharmaceutical, health/medicine and electronics industry. The automotive and aerospace industry, similarly to the energy and renewable energy sectors seems to be attracting lately the attention of academics. The industries less studied in OI research include finance, agriculture, building, and services in general e.g. engineering or consultancy. Preliminary findings propose three major links between: i) high-tech and emergent industries with user-driven innovation, knowledge-base view, exploration/exploitation, and dynamic capabilities, ii) mature and low/medium-tech industries with, resource-based view, absorptive capacity, and the knowledge technology-based view, and lastly iii) industries with less intellectual property or technology-intensity with other theoretical perspectives.

The theoretical contribution. This paper provides a clear overview of the industry contexts and theories used in OI research, which can help researchers in innovation management to decide where and how to study open and collaborative innovation. Similarly, the findings can be used as a guide to point out which theories and research contexts could be explored in future OI research.

Practical implications. The paper illustrates managers with several contexts i.e. industries, in which OI has been used, motivating the revision and implementation of OI efforts and practices.


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Brno University of Technology Tallinn University of Technology