Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Specific challenge: Current research on open innovation has not taken into account the extent and creativity of SMEs in designing and implementing open innovation strategies. The lessons learned from open innovation come from large firms and are not readily transferable to the context of SMEs. While open innovation in large firms does not affect its strategic objectives, in the case of SMEs, it alters the strategic orientation of the company and requires a comprehensive overhaul of the firm's strategy. If implemented correctly, the benefits for an SME can be very important, for instance in the fields of technology transfer, capital raising, resource optimisation or networking (Vanhaverbeke et al., 2012). An urgent need exists, therefore, to study how collaboration and/or open innovation is managed and organised in SMEs.


Open innovation can be an important lever for growth for SMEs. It is important to investigate the size-related challenges and the required competencies and put them in an SME context and develop promising practices. Scattered local initiatives supporting open innovation in SMEs exist. Awareness of these initiatives should be expanded and the services supporting them professionalised.


At the same time financial and management reporting need to catch up with the logic of open innovation. For an entrepreneur comprehensive data and performance indicators would allow drawing conclusions whether open innovation is productive and should be continued or suspended.


Scope: This activity will consist of the following elements:


- Collection and analysis of information and data on the application of open innovation in SMEs, taking into account different situations in Member States and in specific market segments. Identification of case-study examples and analysis of how these practices are organised and managed both in high-tech and low-tech industries. Publication and further dissemination of an annual report on the use of open innovation by SMEs in selected economic sectors.


- EU-wide diffusion of success stories of SMEs using open innovation. Open innovation support schemes are currently implemented locally. Their scale and outreach is too small to invest significantly in developing content and guidelines and hence they attract limited attention from the entrepreneurs. This action will promote Europe-wide case-study examples that illustrate how entrepreneurs successfully transformed their business through a network of partners. It will also illustrate how managing such a network will allow SMEs to gain competitive advantage, overcome their size and resource limitations and how open innovation can become key both for creation and appropriating value.


- Development of practical management tools to support and explain the identified case studies. The management modules should focus on (1) Strategy dimension, (2) Entrepreneurship skills, (3) Resource needs, (4) Tools to build trust and control and manage risk in a collaborative partnership. This will provide managers of small companies with hands-on guidelines on how to innovate and set-up innovation networks. The aim should be to raise awareness of open innovation in SMEs by identifying best practice examples that will help the professionalisation of open innovation management Europe-wide. The action should provide recommendations on how open-innovation information provision and training should evolve over time, beyond the scope of the present activity.


- Development and testing of open innovation indicators to support management support tools within an SME. The developed quantitative tools should help management to make decision about the timing when to establish or end partnerships. Companies should be supported not only in partnering, but also in determining when, for how long and in which sequence partners should be drawn into the projects.


The duration of this action will be three years.


Expected impact: 


·         Increased collaboration of SMEs with external partners to innovate successfully.


·         Open innovation will allow SMEs to sidestep the commoditisation pressure and price competition successfully by developing new and more profitable businesses through networking among innovation partners.


·         Professional open innovation management by SMEs.


·         Creation of an online platform to disseminate best practice examples in the business community and complementing the cases with training modules highlighting specific open innovation aspects.


Type of action: Coordination and support action

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