Startups and open innovation: a review of the literature

John-Christopher Spender (ESADE Business School, Barcelona, Spain)
Vincenzo Corvello (Department of Business Science, University of Calabria, Rende, Italy)
Michele Grimaldi (Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, Casino, Italy)
Pierluigi Rippa (University Federico II of Naples, Napoli, Italy)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Publication date: 9 January 2017



Startup companies represent a powerful engine of open innovation (OI) processes. The purpose of this paper is to represent a first step in building a map of the state-of-the-art knowledge of the “startups in an OI context” phenomenon. Through the selection and analysis of relevant literature, this study aims at deepening our understanding of the theme and at providing directions for future research.


By using an explicit method for the review (Pittaway et al., 2004) the authors selected a set of papers, which cover the knowledge domain object of this study. In total, 41 articles about “startups and OI” have been selected and the full papers have been analysed.


The analysed literature has been synthesized in seven sub-topics, which have been evaluated as the most relevant in explaining the phenomenon of startups in relation to OI. Implications for research, for managers and for policy makers conclude the paper.

Practical implications

The review produced valuable knowledge for both managers and policy decision-makers. The paper allows a better understanding of the role of startups in OI processes. This improved understanding can help managers of large firms as well as policy makers involved in OI in making their decisions. Besides, implications of OI strategies for startup managers have been singled-out.


Startup companies are intrinsically open organizations, necessarily engaged in innovation processes. Research at the intersection between the themes of OI and startups is gaining momentum. This review of the literature represents the first attempt to organize the scientific knowledge related to the intersection between the startups and OI phenomena systematically.



Spender, J., Corvello, V., Grimaldi, M. and Rippa, P. (2017), "Startups and open innovation: a review of the literature", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 4-30.

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