Research Spotlight on Open Innovation

This month we speak to Research Fellow Joanne Zhang about the latest UK~IRC research Report - Open Innovation Choices: What is British Enterprise Doing?

Q. Tell us about the “Open Innovation Choices” report?

 The topic of ‘open innovation’ has seen such an explosion of interest in recent years. To find out the facts behind the hype, we designed a large scale survey (without mentioning the word “open innovation” in the survey) and it was administered to over 12000 UK firms with up to 999 employees, covering both manufacturing and business services sectors between June and November 2010. The report, which is due to publish on 22nd June, aims to provide a rich picture of the nature and extent of British enterprise’s open innovation practices. One of the headline findings is that, firms of similar sizes and ages operating in the same sector are making different choices in their degree of openness. And firms choosing a more open approach to their innovation activities are found to be both more innovative and faster growing.

Q. What is the next stage of research in this project?

We are fully aware that the data collected from this survey requires further analysis to probe in to the issues such as why firms make particular choices in their forms of open innovation, and what are the impacts on firm’s innovation as well as financial performance. This may also require follow up studies to gain a better understanding of the process involved in different kinds of businesses. So this will be the main task for the research team at the next stage. A workshop in July has been planned to take this project forward.

Q. Why is it important for the UK~IRC to do this research?

While there is such a hot buzz around the concept of ‘open innovation’, we do not have enough evidence to fully appreciate this phenomenon. For instance, to what extent are different kinds of firms adopting various forms of open innovation practices? Do these practices benefit smaller firms in the same way as they do for large corporations as often portrayed in the media? And what are the challenges facing these smaller firms in carrying out these activities? So the survey is designed to capture a fuller picture of UK firm’s OI practices in recent years. And we hope the findings will help both management and Government policy-makers improve business innovation, which is one of the key objectives of UK~IRC.

Q. Tell us more about your role in the UK~IRC

Carrying out this large scale research project is my main role at UK~IRC. It includes designing, co-ordinating and executing the survey, as well as analysing and disseminating the results from the survey among businesses, policymakers and academia. I thoroughly enjoy working closely with colleagues at CBR, Cambridge, Imperial College London as well as others from businesses. It is a privilege to work with such a brilliant team at UK~IRC, energising me with innovative ideas every day.

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