The evolution of open innovation

100 Open Startups
4 min readJan 12, 2023

Linear models of open innovation no longer make the same sense they did a short time ago. Now, to innovate well, it is necessary to invest in the management of innovation ecosystems.

Over the past three years, managing the innovation ecosystem has become more relevant than ever. A consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, which created an immediate need for companies to engage external partners and suppliers to deal with the adaptations that the moment demanded.

As a result, the linear open innovation model evolved into the management of innovation ecosystems .

In this article, we will talk about what open innovation is, since knowing the origin and what the concept preaches is essential to understand the evolution of open innovation for ecosystem management, another term that will be explained throughout the text.

What is open innovation

The concept of open innovation, or open innovation, emerged in 2003, as a theory of the American professor Henry Chesbrough , who says that the innovation process is open, that is, it is a process that can, in certain stages, purposely involve partners. In other words, it is external knowledge being used in the innovation process , which has several stages, several moments.

Early in his theory, Chesbrough focused heavily on Research and Development (R&D) and finding sources of innovation along the way. He evolves this into opening up the process and also exploring innovation in business models, in their commercialization, on the other side of the funnel, that is, how to bring innovations to the market in an equally innovative way.

In other words, this innovation can be of technological or scientific origin, but it can also be in the very way a service or product is offered, and how it is consumed by its users or customers.

The evolution of open innovation to innovation ecosystem management

The management of innovation ecosystems is a phenomenon that has been growing stronger over time. We have great references that show the importance of this, such as Apple and its App Store , and Google , with its Google Play , companies that have made their main business a platform for innovators .

Today, we have startups serving as a source of innovation for platforms managed by large companies. These platforms were called open innovation programs, and today it is understood that we are not only talking about an innovation process that starts with ideation until it reaches an innovative product on the market (linear model of open innovation), but in the management of a platform that allows this to be systematized .

With that, you start to consider the source of innovation and the whole open process as “ecosystem management”. That is, you have large companies making themselves available as platforms for startups to make innovation available in the market.

In this sense, managing an innovation ecosystem becomes an evolution of open innovation , just as it has already happened in human resources, which started to be worked on as people management, or in the supply chain, which became supply chain management. value.

Open innovation is part of a still linear innovation management process, involving management of external partners. It is like an addendum, a complement to the main internal process. On the other hand, the management of innovation ecosystems places external actors as an essential part of the company’s capacity to innovate , where a relationship of interdependence is established, which must be broadly managed, as well as other fundamental processes of the company.

With that, we move from open innovation initiatives or programs as complements to a main innovation process, to a management process, with tools, methodologies and, mainly, innovation vehicles with the ecosystem, which nourish the company’s capacity to innovate and , at the same time, also benefits from this openness.

Generating results from ecosystem management

In the article Challenges to Innovate in 2023, we list the main obstacles that corporations will face throughout the year that begins to be able to innovate and grow in a sustainable way, and the management of the innovation ecosystem is one of these challenges .

Actively participating in the innovation ecosystem and managing it effectively, so that it covers all partners and suppliers, is the expert recommendation for corporations to innovate more.

That is, to stand out in the coming years, executives must know how to play the ecosystem game: how to access, monitor, attract, contribute, create and capture value of what is demanded and produced by the innovation ecosystem.