CTG UAlbany Examines Open Innovation in Public Organizations

The Capitol Building lit up at night in Washington DC.

By Michael Parker

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 23, 2022) — Open innovation (OI) is a concept that promotes sharing knowledge both within and outside of organizations to innovate. As a model, open innovation is often seen as a way for public organizations to spur innovative capacity to meet the needs and expectations of citizens while also addressing public challenges.

Researchers at the Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany, the Vlerick Business School in Belgium and the Royal Military Academy of Belgium have completed a review of the current state of OI and the challenges and opportunities for organizations who aim to use the model to benefit their stakeholders.

Determinants of open innovation adoption in public organizations: a systematic review,” was recently published in Public Management Review.

“Open innovation refers to the purposeful efforts of an organization to enrich the innovation capacity with ideas or knowledge originating outside its boundaries, or to allow unused knowledge to flow outside the organization for others to use in their innovations,” said Mila Gascó-Hernandez, co-author and Research Director at CTG UAlbany and an Associate Professor at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy.

Noting how the rising expectations of citizens and the proliferation of wicked and unruly problems are driving policy and action within public organizations, Gascó-Hernandez and her colleagues set out to create a synthesizing framework on the determinants of OI adoption by public organizations.

CTG UAlbany Research Director Mila Gasco Hernandez profile photo.
Associate Professor Mila Gascó-Hernandez

“Exploring the determinants of OI adoption is important as it helps to explain why public organizations choose to adopt a strategy of OI,” said Gascó-Hernandez. “Moreover, identifying and understanding the determinants of OI adoption provides insights into which factors may hinder or support the introduction of a new innovation paradigm in public organizations.”

To provide a theoretical foundation to the understanding of open innovation adoption, the authors categorize determinants identified in the literature based on three theoretical perspectives on organizations: transaction cost theory, resource-based theory and institutional theory. These organizational theories help to understand the changing nature of organizations, their behavior, actions and decision-making, and the results of those actions.

“Our findings show that the adoption of OI in public organizations is a complex, multifaceted issue that is the result of a compounding of organizational determinants,” said Gascó-Hernandez. “Our review finds that a resource-based rationale is dominant in the literature, focusing on the need to mobilize resources for OI adoption. Yet the transaction costs and institutional pressures are also important factors which deserve greater focus as more and more organizations take a look at how OI adoption can benefit their citizens.”