Adjusting Innovation Policy in an Era of Open Innovation

  • Posted on: 22 November 2018
  • By: Rolf Reiner

Almost ten years ago we organized a workshop on “Open Innovation in a Globalised World” for DG Enterprise and Industry. Some of the conclusions still are worth to be kept in mind for further discussions and policy development in support of open innovation.

“An appropriate mix of regional policies, science and technology policies and industrial policies is needed to support open innovation. This calls for improved coordination of these different policy areas.

Potential policy measures to support open innovation should aim to remove existing barriers for collaboration, to enable the development of open innovation structures and to ensure the creation and diffusion of knowledge flows within the innovation system. Of particular importance are the removal of barriers for co-operation across Europe and the availability of skilled work force with view of open innovation needs.”

When looking into the insights provided by the experts during the workshop, I like to recap briefly some of the recommendations as basis for further discussions.

Networking and collaboration                                                               

Competition is the core driver of innovation – but open innovation is based on networking and collaboration. The main policy in support of open innovation therefore is to find the right balance of competition and collaboration between partners.

Strong networks are needed including smart people (“sector champions”), building on excellence and involving strong drivers. Public-private partnership models with multinational enterprises (MNEs) are able to deliver an appropriate environment for open innovation.

Human Capital and Entrepreneurship Culture

Co-operation in open innovation systems requires new skills with view of e.g. innovation and knowledge management, co-operation management across different cultures and sectors, financial and networking skills along the entire value chain as well as specific business skills for (new ways of) commercialization. Furthermore, increased awareness of benefits of open innovation and more entrepreneurial spirit are needed (including the right for failures and experimentation).

This is true for both, participants in open innovation processes as well as providers of open innovation platforms and support.

Access to finance

The availability of risk capital and of exit possibilities is crucial for a functional open innovation system. Smaller projects may find finance through crowd funding or “triple f” investors (family, friends and fools), but a functioning innovation investment environment would be able to increase significantly number and success rate of open innovation projects. Simplified investment rules could bridge the gap between open innovation and risk capital.

Governance and role of (regional) policies

Innovation activities at regional level are important due to the proximity of partners, but need to be coordinated across Europe to overcome existing bottlenecks for open innovation. With view of open innovation it would be essential to find the right balance between regionalism and globalization. Support measures with view of vertical coordination across Europe, i.e. from European level, to Member State level and regional level, horizontal coordination, i.e. between regions, Member States and policy instruments need to be developed and implemented.

Public authorities could foster open innovation by the huge market power as main customers via public procurement in order to stimulate the use of innovative products e.g. with view of health or climate change related technologies.


Short CV of the Author


Rolf Reiner is managing director of Innovationhouse Deutschland GmbH, an innovation consulting company. He has been coordinator of several European and national projects and worked with regional clusters on innovation measures including open innovation approaches. Before focusing on innovation management support for public authorities, state agencies, industry-university partnerships and economic development institutions, he delivered policy advise and support for (innovation) policy development to the European Commission and national authorities. Rolf holds a doctoral degree in physics and started his own business in 1997 after 13 years as innovation and research manager at Stuttgart University.


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