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Missing an Open Goal? UK public policy and open innovation

Missing an Open Goal? UK public policy and open innovation

Charles Levy and Benjamin Reid
08 September 2011

Leading global organisations are increasingly viewing open innovation as the key to cost-effective new product and service development. Here the term refers to both the sourcing and involvement of external organisations and stakeholders in the innovation process, and the open sharing of innovation outside the organisation (through, for example, patent pools or "open source" approaches). While open innovation is probably over-hyped in some quarters, we see it as a genuine and powerful shift in strategy and practice by many organisations.

Academics and governments have started to develop innovation public policy that draws directly on the concept of open innovation. However, examining how open innovation is being deployed as a policy term uncovers some worrying trends: while leading corporations have moved beyond approaches that try to make everything open – largely adopting nuanced strategies that combine degrees of openness at different points in global value chains in different sectors – public policy seems stuck at a less mature phase of open innovation, collating some rather traditional lists of innovation policy areas and ranking countries by "openness". We believe these approaches are less mature and sophisticated than those of leading corporations.

If it is to emulate those corporations’ successful approaches, the UK government needs to focus on developing smart industrial policies regarding when and where its national innovation eco-system is "open". This will involve analysis of the UK’s role in different global value chains and networks – just as leading corporations do – and ensuring that areas where the UK is strong are invested in through policy, and where greater openness will benefit the UK it is encouraged.

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