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Open Innovation in Specialized SMEs: The Case of Supercars
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.), Entrepreneurship and innovation. Politecnico di Milano.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3970-7102
Politecnico di Milano.
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.), Entrepreneurship and innovation.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the influence that adopting open innovation (OI) has on the innovativeness and performance of specialized small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This paper also examines the adoption of OI within a firm’s practices and models, and within the three dimensions of firm sustainability.

Design/methodology/approach – Survey data from 48 specialized SMEs manufacturing supercars were analyzed using partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM). SmartPLS software was used to conduct a path analysis and test the proposed framework.

Findings – The findings suggest that high adoption of OI models (OIM) tends to increase firm innovativeness (INNO). Similarly, the adoption of OI practices (OIP) has a positive effect on INNO but to a lesser extent than OIM. The moderation results of INNO further show that OIM and OIP can benefit the firm performance (FP) of SMEs. Specifically, two dimensions of FP – environmental and social performance – were found to be greatly influenced by OI.

Research limitations/implications – Due to parsimony in the investigated model, this study only focuses on OI adoption as practices and models without considering its drivers or other contingency factors.

Practical implications – This paper could help practitioners in SMEs better understand the benefits of adopting OI to be more innovative but also more sustainable.

Originality/value – This study contributes to the literature on the role of OI practices and models regarding the dimensions of firm sustainability performance by being the first paper to investigate this relationship in the context of small and medium manufacturers of supercars. 

Keyword [en]
Open Innovation, Practices, Models, Firm Performance, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Supercars, PLS-SEM.
National Category
Economics and Business
Research subject
Industrial Engineering and Management
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-180558OAI: diva2:895339

QS 2016

Available from: 2016-01-18 Created: 2016-01-18 Last updated: 2016-01-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The unexpected implications of opening up innovation: A multi-perspective study of the role of Open Innovation practices in mature industries
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The unexpected implications of opening up innovation: A multi-perspective study of the role of Open Innovation practices in mature industries
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The way firms innovate has notably changed in recent years. A clear example is the manufacturing sector which has been experiencing a new revolution in production and innovation. Linked to this industrial shift, manufacturing firms have been adopting more open and collaborative practices to innovate. This phenomenon, known as Open Innovation (OI), is helping firms to acquire and explore knowledge from external sources (inbound process) and to exploit knowledge via the commercialisation of ideas and technology (outbound process). Even though numerous researchers have studied the adoption of OI and its relation to numerous strategic and organisational results, very few studies have focused on investigating the positive influence of diverse OI approaches and practices on multiple dimensions of firm performance from different angles. These drawbacks hinder the diffusion of OI practices and raise the question of whether it is convenient for any firm in any industry to adopt or not to adopt OI. Thus, this thesis helps to fill this gap by examining the extent to which OI practices are adopted by firms and other actors in unexplored mature manufacturing industries and by understanding the unidentified roles that these practices play in relation to different dimensions of firm and industrial performance. 

This thesis brings together different methodologies and data to investigate OI practices with a novel multi-perspective approach. Hence, OI practices are framed within the industrial context of manufacturing firms in Italy and Sweden, several actors in the food industry, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from the Italian foundry industry, and also within worldwide SMEs designing and producing supercars. More specifically, using data from 247 European manufacturing firms collected through a tailored OI survey, this thesis supports the relevance of internal context characteristics such as firm size and provides evidence of the relation between configurations of OI models and innovation performance. Through two case studies in the food industry, this thesis demonstrates novel forms of OI practices that can be characterised and adopted by different innovation actors within and around this mature industry. Likewise, drawing from 30 rigorous case studies of small and medium-sized foundries, this research for the first time illuminates the relation between the aggregations of some innovation practices (specifically internal R&D and inbound OI) with a contemporarily relevant dimension of environmental and industrial performance such as energy efficiency.

Although foregrounding the practical implications of adopting OI practices, this project also investigates and attempts to contrast some of the theoretical perspectives used when researching OI in mature manufacturing industries. This thesis concludes with an integrative study of the main aspects of the research project to demonstrate the advantages of using a multi-perspective approach to study OI. This last study, originally inspired from two case studies of small carmakers, involved collecting data from 48 small and medium-sized manufacturers of supercars with a survey designed to evaluate OI influence on several types of firm performance. Collectively, the results from this thesis confirm the validity of OI in new research contexts and reveal a combined influence of specific innovation practices on innovativeness, but also on the dimensions of industrial, environmental, and social performance. This thesis contributes to theory and practice by empirically showing that even though OI and the results of practicing it are highly context dependent, adopting OI practices can definitely have a positive influence in the overall performance of firms in mature manufacturing industries, including SMEs and other small actors. 

Abstract [sv]

Det sätt på vilket företagen innoverar har förändrats märkbart under de senaste åren. Den här situationen syns tydligt inom tillverkningssektorn, som upplever en ny produktions- och innovationsrevolution. Med tanke på detta inför tillverkningsföretagen öppnare och mer samarbetsbaserade metoder. Detta fenomen, benämnt öppen innovation (Open Innovation, OI), hjälper organisationer att förvärva och utforska kunskaper från externa källor (ingående process) och att utforska kunskaper genom kommersialisering av idéer och teknik (utgående process). Även om ett flertal forskare har studerat införandet av OI och hur det hänger samman med olika strategiska och organisatoriska resultat, har endast mycket få studier lagt fokus på att undersöka de positiva effekter som olika former av OI-metoder och -praxis har på flera dimensioner av företagens resultat och ur olika synvinklar. Den här bristen hindrar spridningen av OI-praxis och väcker frågan om huruvida det är fördelaktigt för ett företag i en viss bransch att införa eller inte införa OI. Denna avhandling hjälper till att fylla det här tomrummet genom att undersöka i vilken utsträckning öppen innovationspraxis har införts av företag och andra aktörer i outforskade, mogna tillverkningsbranscher och vilka oidentifierade roller sådan praxis spelar i förhållande till olika dimensioner av företagsresultat och branschresultat.

Denna avhandling för samman olika metoder och data för att undersöka OI-praxis ur ett nytt multiperspektiv. Det industriella sammanhanget för studien av OI-praxis är därför tillverkningsföretag i Italien och Sverige, flera aktörer inom livsmedelsindustrin, små och medelstora företag från den italienska gjuteriindustrin samt små och medelstora företag världen över som utformar och tillverkar superbilar. Denna avhandling använder data från 247 europeiska tillverkningsföretag, som samlats in genom en skräddarsydd enkät om öppen innovation, för att bekräfta betydelsen av det interna sammanhangets egenskaper, t.ex. företagets storlek, och lägga fram bevis för relationen mellan OI-modellkonfigurationer och innovationsresultat. Genom två fallstudier inom livsmedelsindustrin visar denna avhandling nya sätt på vilka OI-praxis kan karakteriseras och införas av olika innovationsaktörer inom och omkring den här mogna branschen. Forskningsprojektet utgår även från 30 noggrant genomförda fallstudier av små och medelstora gjuterier för att för första gången belysa relationen mellan samlingar av vissa former av innovationspraxis (nämligen intern FoU och ingående OI) och en samtida relevant dimension av miljö- och branschresultat, t.ex. energieffektivitet.

Detta projekt bildar förgrunden till de praktiska följderna av att införa OI-praxis, men undersöker även och försöker kontrastera till några av de teoretiska perspektiv som används vid forskning kring OI i mogna tillverkningsbranscher. Denna avhandling avslutas med en integrerande studie av forskningsprojektets huvudsakliga aspekter för att påvisa fördelarna med att använda en multiperspektivmetod vid studier av OI. Den sista studien, till vilken inspirationen ursprungligen hämtades från två fallstudier av små biltillverkare, innebar insamling av data från 48 små och medelstora tillverkare av superbilar med en enkät avsedd att utvärdera OI:s påverkan på flera typer av företagsresultat. De sammantagna resultaten från denna avhandling bekräftar OI:s giltighet i nya forskningssammanhang och avslöjar en kombinerad effekt av vissa former av innovationspraxis på innovationsförmåga, men även på dimensionerna industriella, miljömässiga och sociala resultat. Avhandlingen bidrar till teori och praktik genom att empiriskt påvisa att även om OI och resultaten av OI-praxis är starkt kontextberoende, kan införande av OI-praxis säkerligen ha ett positivt inflytande på det totala resultatet för företag i mogna tillverkningsbranscher, däribland små och medelstora företag och andra mindre aktörer.

Abstract [it]

Il modo in cui le imprese stanno innovando è notevolmente cambiato negli ultimi anni. Un chiaro esempio è il settore manifatturiero, che sta reagendo a una nuova rivoluzione nella produzione e innovazione. Collegato a questo cambiamento industriale, le aziende del settore della manifattura stanno acquisendo nuove pratiche più aperte e collaborative per innovare. Questo fenomeno, noto come ‘Open Innovation’ (OI), sta aiutando alle aziende ad acquistare e esplorare le conoscenze dalle fonti esterne (processo ‘inbound’) e di sfruttare la conoscenza tramite la commercializzazione delle idee e delle tecnologie (processo ‘outbound’). Anche se numerosi ricercatori hanno studiato l’adozione della OI e la sua relazione con numerosi risultati strategici ed organizzativi, in pochi studi si sono concentrati sullo studio dell’influenza positiva di diversi approcci e pratiche sulle multipli dimensioni della performance aziendale di diverse angolature della OI. Questi inconvenienti ostacolano la diffusione delle pratiche OI ed evidenziano la questione se è pure conveniente per qualsiasi tipo d’azienda in qualsiasi tipo d’industria adottare o non adottare OI. Così, questa tesi contribuisce a riempire questa lacuna tramite la esaminazione delle misure in cui le pratiche della OI vengono adottate dalle aziende ed altri attori nelle inesplorate industrie mature della manifattura e attraverso la comprensione dei ruoli non identificati che queste pratiche giocano in relazione alle diverse dimensioni della performance aziendale e industriale.


Questa tesi mette insieme le diverse metodologie e i dati ad indagare sulle pratiche della OI con un nuovo approccio multi-prospettico. Quindi, le pratiche OI sono inquadrate nel contesto industriale delle aziende manifatturiere in Italia e in Svezia, i diversi attori nel settore alimentare, le piccole e medie imprese (PMI) del settore della fonderia italiana, e anche nelle PMI di tutto il mondo che disegnano e producono i supercars. In particolare, utilizzando i dati di 247 aziende manifatturiere europee raccolti attraverso un sondaggio, questa tesi sostiene la rilevanza delle caratteristiche del contesto interno come la dimensione della azienda e fornisce la prova della relazione tra configurazioni dei modelli OI e la capacità di innovazione. Attraverso due casi di studio nel settore alimentare, questa tesi dimostra delle nuove forme di pratiche OI che possono essere caratterizzate e adottate dai diversi attori dell’innovazione all’interno ed all’intorno di questo settore maturo. Allo stesso modo, raccolto da 30 rigorosi casi di studio delle piccole e delle medie fonderie, questa ricerca per la prima volta illumina la relazione tra le aggregazioni di alcune pratiche di innovazione (in particolare le pratiche interne di R&S e di OI inbound) con una dimensione contemporaneamente rilevante delle prestazioni ambientali ed industriali quali l’efficienza energetica.


Anche se in primo piano le implicazioni pratiche dell’adozione delle pratiche della OI sono accentate, il progetto indaga anche e cerca di contrastare alcune delle prospettive teoriche utilizzate nella ricerca nelle mature industrie manifatturiere. Questa tesi finisce con uno studio integrativo degli aspetti principali del progetto di ricerca per dimostrare i vantaggi di utilizzare un approccio multi-prospettiva per studiare la OI. Quest’ultimo studio, originariamente ispirato da due casi di studio di piccole case automobilistiche, ha coinvolto la raccolta dei dati provenienti da 48 piccole e medie produttori di supercars tramite un sondaggio per valutare l’influenza dei diversi tipi di performance aziendale. Collettivamente, i risultati di questa tesi confermano la validità di OI in nuovi contesti di ricerca e rivelano una influenza combinata di pratiche d’innovazione specifica su innovazione, ma anche sulle dimensioni della performance industriale, ambientale e sociale. Questa tesi contribuisce alla teoria e alla pratica, che empiricamente mostra che se anche la OI ed i risultati di praticarla sono molto dipendenti dal contesto, l’adozione delle pratiche OI può sicuramente avere un effetto positivo nelle prestazioni complessive delle aziende nella industria manifatturiere matura, comprese le PMI ed altri piccoli attori.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2016. xviii, 154 p.
TRITA-IEO, ISSN 1100-7982 ; 2016:01
open innovation, practices, innovation performance, industrial performance, sustainability, SMEs, manufacturing sector, automotive industry, foundry industry, food industry
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Industrial Engineering and Management
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-181062 (URN)978-91-7595-848-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-02-25, E3, Osquarsbacke 14, KTH, Stockholm, 14:00 (English)
European Doctorate in Industrial Management

This thesis is produced as part of the EMJD Programme European Doctorate in Industrial Management (EDIM) funded by the European Commission, Erasmus Mundus Action 1.

EDIM is run by a consortium consisting of the industrial management departments of three institutions.

•KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

•Politecnico de Milano, POLIMI, Milan, Italy

•Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, UPM, Madrid, Spain

QC 20160128

Available from: 2016-01-29 Created: 2016-01-27 Last updated: 2016-01-29Bibliographically approved

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