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More open than open innovation? Rethinking the concept of openness in innovation studies


  • Julien Pénin


This paper re-examines the concept of open innovation developed in organization sciences (Chesbrough, 2003a). We claim that this paradigm, which insists on the distributive nature of innovation among a wide range of heterogeneous actors, does not put enough emphasis on the condition of access to knowledge. Yet, the open dimension of knowledge is a very important feature to sustain a collective mode of innovation. We propose therefore a stronger definition of open innovation, which is based on three constitutive characteristics: (i) Firms voluntarily release knowledge; (ii) Knowledge is open, i.e. is available to all interested parties without discrimination; (iii) dynamic interactions take place among the stakeholders to enrich the open knowledge base. Examples that fit our definition of open innovation are open science, user centered innovation (von Hippel, 2005), free-libre open source software, collective invention (Allen, 1983), etc. We conclude with a discussion on the role of IPR to secure open innovation.

Suggested Citation

  • Julien Pénin, 2008. "More open than open innovation? Rethinking the concept of openness in innovation studies," Working Papers of BETA 2008-18, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
  • Handle: RePEc:ulp:sbbeta:2008-18

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Maureen McKelvey, 1998. "Evolutionary innovations: learning, entrepreneurship and the dynamics of the firm," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 157-175.
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    10. Allen, Robert C., 1983. "Collective invention," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 1-24, March.
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    19. Pénin, Julien & Wack, Jean-Pierre, 2008. "Research tool patents and free-libre biotechnology: A suggested unified framework," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(10), pages 1909-1921, December.
    20. Antoine Bureth & Rachel Levy & Julien Pénin & Sandrine Wolff, 2005. "Strategic Reasons for Patenting: Between Exclusion and Coordination Rationales," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, vol. 95(5), pages 19-46, September.
    21. Suzanne Scotchmer, 1991. "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Cumulative Research and the Patent Law," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 29-41, Winter.
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    open source; free software; intellectual property rights (IPR); open innovation; collective invention.;

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