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Knowledge transfer in open innovation: A classification framework for healthcare ecosystems

Giustina Secundo (Department of Engineering for Innovation, Facolta di Ingegneria, Universita del Salento, Lecce, Italy)
Antonio Toma (Department of Engineering for Innovation, Facolta di Ingegneria, Universita del Salento, Lecce, Italy)
Giovanni Schiuma (Universita degli Studi della Basilicata, Potenza, Italy)
Giuseppina Passiante (Department of Engineering for Innovation, University of Salento, Lecce, Italy)

Business Process Management Journal

ISSN: 1463-7154

Article publication date: 9 August 2018

Issue publication date: 8 February 2019




Despite the abundance of research in open innovation, few contributions explore it at inter-organizational level, and particularly with a focus on healthcare ecosystem, characterized by a dense network of relationships among public and private organizations (hospitals, companies and universities) as well as other actors that can be labeled as “untraditional” player, i.e. doctors, nurses and patients. The purpose of this paper is to cover this gap and explore how knowledge is transferred and flows among all the healthcare ecosystems’ players in order to support open innovation processes.


The paper is conceptual in nature and adopts a narrative literature review approach. In particular, insights gathered from open innovation literature at the inter-organizational network level, with a particular attention to healthcare ecosystems, and from the knowledge transfer processes, are analyzed in order to propose an interpretative framework for the understanding of knowledge transfer in open innovation with a focus on healthcare ecosystem.


The paper proposes an original interpretative framework for knowledge transfer to support open innovation in healthcare ecosystems, composed of four main components: healthcare ecosystem’s players’ categories; knowledge flows among different categories of players along the exploration and exploitation stages of innovation development; players’ motivations for open innovation; and players’ positions in the innovation process. In addition, assuming the intermediary network as the suitable organizational model for healthcare ecosystem, four classification scenarios are identified on the basis of the main players’ influence degree and motivations for open innovation.

Practical implications

The paper offers interpretative lenses for managers and policy makers in understanding the most suitable organizational models able to encourage open innovation in healthcare ecosystems, taking into consideration the players’ motivation and the knowledge transfer processes on the basis of the innovation results.


The paper introduces a novel framework that fills a gap in the innovation management literature, by pointing out the key role of external not R&D players, like patients, involved in knowledge transfer for open innovation processes in healthcare ecosystems.



Secundo, G., Toma, A., Schiuma, G. and Passiante, G. (2019), "Knowledge transfer in open innovation: A classification framework for healthcare ecosystems", Business Process Management Journal, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 144-163.



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