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Exploring the barriers to SMEs’ open innovation adoption in Ghana: A mixed research approach

Stephen Oduro (Faculty of Economics, Universita degli studi Internazionali di Roma, Roma, Italy)

International Journal of Innovation Science

ISSN: 1757-2223

Article publication date: 24 February 2020

Issue publication date: 3 February 2020




Open innovation (OI) is now recognized as one essential innovation paradigm to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) quell their liability of newness and smallness. However, little is known about SMEs’ OI barriers, particularly in emerging economies. Drawing on both network and transaction cost theory, this study aims to explore the barriers to SMEs’ OI adoption in Ghana.


The study adopted an exploratory sequential research design that involved both qualitative and quantitative study methodologies. A total of 644 responses (21 survey interviews and 623 usable questionnaires) across SMEs in Ghana were collected and analyzed in the study. A qualitative analysis involving quotations extracted from the respondent’s statement was used to present the qualitative findings, whereas SEM-partial least square, co-variance approach, was used to analyze the formulated hypotheses.


Results show that significant barriers to SMEs OI adoption are collaboration barriers – difficulty in finding the right partners and problems of cooperation and coordination of operational functions; organizational barriers – lack of flexible internal procedures and structures and organizational inertia; and strategic barriers – opportunistic behavior of partners and lack of strategic and resource fit. Contrary to existing findings, financial and knowledge barriers were disclosed as driving factors, rather than barriers, to SMEs’ OI adoption; these findings challenge conventional thinking about SMEs’ major OI barriers.

Research limitations/implications

This study focuses on only SMEs in one emerging economy, namely, Ghana, which may limit the generalization of the findings.

Practical implications

The findings of this study, while limited to Ghana, offer useful insights to SMEs managers, development practitioners and policymakers respecting the overall importance of the OI model, its associated impediments, as well as the strategic measures to quell those barriers.


This study provides a pioneering empirical investigation into the main barriers to SMEs’ OI adoption in a less-explored emerging market context through a mixed research approach.



Oduro, S. (2020), "Exploring the barriers to SMEs’ open innovation adoption in Ghana: A mixed research approach", International Journal of Innovation Science, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 21-51.



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Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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