According to previous chapters, innovation networks are largely justified by the need for complementary interactions among different agents to share knowledge and collaborate in innovation with both the public and private sectors. Thus, the way collaboration is performed is an important topic in the European context, where public–private cooperation may have different profiles. The aim of this chapter is to explore different European backgrounds (grouped into four categories: western, northern, southern and eastern countries) as regards public–private and private–private collaborations. The chapter uses Community Innovation Survey (CIS) aggregate sectoral data and concludes that different patterns of collaboration exist for innovation across European geographical areas. An advanced characterization of the innovation process leads us to understand the firm as an open system that interacts with other external agents (Nelson, 1990; Rothwell, 1992; Rosenberg and Nelson, 1994; Klevorick et al., 1995; Narin et al., 1997). Two decades before the introduction of the open innovation concept (Chesbrough, 2003), innovation was already clearly a collective process (Allen, 1983), partially conducted outside firms’ boundaries in stand-alone research organizations (Teece,1988) and critically reliant upon companies’ absorptive capacity (Nelson and Winter, 1977) to recognize, adopt and exploit external knowledge (Cohen and Levinthal, 1990). The view of innovation as an inter-organizational interactive process, which helps firms to recognize and absorb knowledge (Dyer and Singh, 1998), has, nevertheless, strengthened.
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