Open innovation in SMEs and the role of the external network: A systematic literature review

Katie Hyslop

Publication: Working/Discussion PaperWU Working Paper


Ever since Henry Chesbrough coined the term in 2003, the number of studies exploring the new
paradigm of open innovation (OI) has grown exponentially, with researchers investigating and
exploring the application of open principles in an array of industrial and geographical contexts.
Despite this growing interest from the scientific community as well as practitioners, our understanding
of the implementation of open principles from an SME perspective remains, to a large
extent, underdeveloped. In particular, uncovering how the SME can best exploit and manage
their external network to facilitate both exploration and exploitation activities has, thus far, been
largely neglected. Therefore, an exploration of the implementation and successful management
of OI projects in smaller firms from a network perspective, through a systematic review and
assimilation of the current body of extant studies seems a timely and necessary step, in order to
form a roadmap for a future research agenda. Consequently, the aim of this paper is to shed
light on the antecedents and outcomes of successful OI network management in small firms.
Systematic analysis of 51 extant studies reveals that many barriers associated with implementing
OI in SMEs often referred to as liability of smallness, can be overcome by the effective
network management, coupled with the implementation of an open culture. Openness can also
be seen to be positively related to business model flexibility and adaptability. Results though,
remain unclear on the exact role of the intermediary and whether entrepreneurial capacity, trust,
increased social interaction and goal alignment among the SME and their network partners, as
well as network unity and conflict mitigation/resolution can be described as a driver for, or an
outcome of successful open projects. Therefore, these potential relationships between openness
and managerial capacity are proposed for further empirical testing and analysis. The paper concludes
by presenting a map for future research, incorporating a series of propositions suggested
during the analysis and consolidating these issues into a framework of suggestions for future
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationVienna
PublisherWU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Institut für KMU-Management
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015

Publication series

NameWorking Papers / Institut für KMU-Management

WU Working Paper Series

  • Working Papers / Institut für KMU-Management

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