What is open innovation?

In the current climate, systems including cities are facing increasingly difficult operating conditions. They are constrained by financial pressures, open to scrutiny, (through information now freely available through technological platforms such as the internet), and face demands for accountability and public value. The traditional methods of running organisations (and approaching change), often fail to cope with these changing demands of want and need of the modern age, or the reality that organisations (and that includes cities), are living systems, not mechanistic machines. The mechanistic view, and hence traditional methodologies of change, are rooted in the traditions of the industrial age, where systems are managed through hierarchical leadership and operational procedures that are internally focused and ‘closed’.

Open innovation is a different approach to this traditional closed perspective. It is defined as; the breaking down of an organisation’s boundaries to encourage the flow of knowledge and creativity-both internally and externally- to promote innovation.

It is a practice that looks for support, knowledge, experience and ideas outside of a system as well as internally. It has at its heart an ethos of openness and honesty combined with practises of participation and collaboration. These things together promote a different way of working, which is creative, innovative, and founded on relationships of trust and mutual respect.

This practice of openness unlocks knowledge and assets that are invaluable to cash strapped city authorities. It brings about engagement in communities because it promotes transparency. It empowers users by involving them in the innovation. Open innovation processes ensure that the final innovation itself is more relevant and scalable because it has been shaped by the users who know how it will work best, and know how it will fit in their environment.


Gott, M (2014) Key to the city: unlocking open innovation [Online],www.urbact.eu. Available at

http://urbact.eu/sites/default/files/import/Projects/Genius__Open/outputs_media/Genius_Open_Innovation_baseline_report_01.pdf (Accessed 11/06/2015).

contact Emma Loftus at ejlresearch