July 24, 2007

Data for open innovation research

To promote his third book, Open Business Models, Henry Chesbrough was interviewed for PDMA Visions, the newsletter of the Product Development and Management Association.

As the founder of the open innovation paradigm, Chesbrough offers an important update on the practice of open innovation. The questions are mainly about how firms can apply open innovation, as would be expected given the interviewer and publication. It is a useful update both for firms and business students to understand the open innovation phenomenon.

However, Chesbrough also suggests for US scholars a new opportunity for future research on open innovation:
The National Science Foundation [NSF] reported data on extramural R&D (where the company paid for it, but the work was conducted outside of the company) and on collaborative R&D (where a company worked with another organization on an R&D project). In the year 2004, the NSF found that three to four percent of R&D spending was spent on extramural R&D, and another three to four percent was spent on collaborative R&D.

These are not huge percentages, but they add up to $9 or $10 billion in R&D for that year. And the fact that the government has started to collect these data is itself significant, in that it must see this trend developing, or else it would not have bothered to ask these questions on the survey.
The availability of data is obviously crucial for large-scale empirical research on open innovation. For example, the OI research articles of Ammon Salter and Keld Laursen depended on the annual U.K. Innovation Survey, part of the periodic Community Innovation Surveys run by EU countries.

The NSF data on extramural R&D (a particular form of external innovation sourcing) is a start, but more data is needed to judge the extent of open innovation use in the U.S.

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