Organizing collaborative innovation : studying the process of intermedieries for open innovation

  • Organisation von kollaborativen Innovationsvorhaben : Untersuchungen zum Prozess anhand von Intermediären für Open Innovation

Diener, Kathleen; Piller, Frank Thomas (Thesis advisor); Brettel, Malte (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : Publikationsserver der RWTH Aachen University (2015)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Aachen, Techn. Hochsch., Diss., 2014


This thesis intends to contribute to the debate about what really constitutes open innovation. Specifically, the results of the study shall help to sharpen the meaning of open innovation on a theoretical, as well as on a practical, level. In addition to distinguishing open innovation from other concepts of cooperation within innovation, this thesis wants to provide insight into the organization of such collaboration. In doing so, its objective is to isolate the central parameters of organization and how these interact. Innovation and cooperation are strongly interlinked concepts with a long research history. With Chesbrough’s (2003) introduction of the open innovation paradigm the collaboration concepts have gained a new facet. The concept of collaboration expands beyond inter-organizational networks in terms of collaborating with all different kinds of actors, like customers, suppliers, users etc. The growing number of articles reviewing the current state of the literature show an interest in identifying principles behind open innovation and its correlation with innovation performance. However, the recent conceptual ambiguity prevents a full understanding of open innovation and there remains a need to better differentiate practices of open innovation. Academics have further agreed that there is a paucity of research considering the organization and costs of open innovation; so far organizational aspects are a minor researched issue. When talking about costs of openness, scholars see a particular need to investigate the costs for coordination and competition. Once the increasing and decreasing effects of openness are known the true benefit of open innovation can be determined. This thesis seeks to cease the opportunity that this gap in the research on organizing (open) innovation collaboration provides. By adopting the theory of organizational learning and the resourced-based view, it investigates which aspects describe the organization of innovation collaboration. The focus, therefore, lies especially on new forms of collaboration, which describe a distributed innovation process. By performing three single studies this thesis intends to answer the following research questions: (1.) How do new forms of collaboration differ from traditional forms in terms of their formalization and proximity? (2.) What are beneficial structural requirements in the organization of collaboration with external partners? (3.) What is the function behind for open innovation? The empirical data of the studies are based on surveying intermediaries in the field of open innovation. In total, two market studies analyzing open innovation intermediaries were performed. By doing so, this research suggests a framework which allows for the arrangement of different existing concepts of collaboration as an interaction between two dimensions: the degree of collaboration formalization and the degree of collaboration proximity. In general, results show that the governance of ‘open innovation’-related collaboration forms are characterized by an informal interaction that takes place further away from the boundaries of a firm. The first study outlines the research into, and practice of, open innovation and suggests a conceptual framework to differentiate this concept from others. The conceptual framework of this study is an interaction model which reflects the process of generating and transferring knowledge. This framework allows facets of openness that distinguish between configuration types of collaboration to be derived. The second study adds to the literature on open innovation by opening the ‘black box’ of collaboration. The results advance the understanding of the relationship between external knowledge sourcing and organization structure to process information. The conceptual model of this study hypothesizes a mediating role of the knowledge transfer process between cooperation and coordination costs. The type of mediation indicates the degree of decomposability of the knowledge transfer process. The third study empirically investigates the understanding of the term ‘open innovation’ and how open innovation methods can be structure. Open innovation methods can be described according to the type of information they intend to generate and the mechanism through which collaboration between the diverse partners is initiated. The framework derived from this allows for the classification of six open innovation methods, ranging from different contest formats to workshops and market research.


  • Chair of Technology and Innovation Management (TIM) [812710]
  • Innovation und Entrepreneurship Group (WIN) [813110]