Open Innovation assumes that enterprises can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, to discover and realize innovative opportunities. The Open Innovation model can be compared with the traditional, closed model in which enterprises generate, develop and market their own ideas, usually organized in an internal R&D department. This closed model has become outdated due to increased mobility of workers, better education, growing presence of venture capital, increasingly shortened product life cycles, growing competition, and wide availability of knowledge from multiple sources. In the Open Innovation model, enterprises can still initiate and nurture innovations within the borders of their organizations, but they may also draw on alternative pathways to bring ideas to the market and to benefit from external knowledge. This new approach can be of benefit to both enterprises and policy makers.


Open Innovation enables knowledge and ideas to find greater use, in a wider variety of business models and network configurations, than was previously possible. Overall, this can be a source for further value creation in society. In the current project we developed a framework to identify and assess guidelines for policies to support Open Innovation. We applied the framework to three Era-Net countries, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Estonia, to assess which guidelines are reflected in current policy mixes, and to identify which ones are lacking and may be further developed.

We identified seven policy areas which are most relevant for Open Innovation: research and technology development (RTD), interaction, entrepreneurship, science, education, labor markets, and competition policies.

We formulated five research questions: 1. What are the key dimensions of Open Innovation? 2. Why is it legitimate to develop policies for Open Innovation? 3. What policy guidelines can be derived from Open Innovation theory? 4. How are these guidelines reflected in the current policy mixes of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Estonia? 5. From a comparison between these countries, what are the best practices and what can be learned?

Main findings

From our theoretical and empirical efforts, the following overall conclusions can be drawn. Firstly, we conclude that current innovation policy mixes already contain many good elements (at least, in the three reviewed countries). Open Innovation thinking will not completely upset traditional policies.

Secondly, Open Innovation inevitably broadens the scope of innovation policymaking. The open model stresses a need to also develop more remote policy areas such as labor markets and education. Even when traditional RTD and interaction-oriented policies would be well organized, the policy mix would still be suboptimal if the more remote ones remain inadequately covered. Therefore, policy makers should explore how to integrate various policy areas in a coherent manner.

Thirdly, Open Innovation stresses that policymaking should be much broader than offering financial support. In general, policy interventions may be designed as financial instruments, information services or legislation. We have the impression that policy makers generally seem to prefer direct support measures such as subsidies, because these are more visible and do not hurt special interest groups. We stress that policy makers need to be cautious as the establishment of financial measures may weaken the incentives for regulatory reform.