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Managing knowledge boundaries for open innovation – lessons from the automotive industry

Miriam Wilhelm (Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands)
Wilfred Dolfsma (Glendonbrook Institute for Enterprise Development, Loughborough University, London, UK)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 2 January 2018




The rising need to innovate and obtain knowledge from more distant knowledge sources calls for new innovation strategies and a better integration of other external actors who lie outside the traditional automotive supply chain. Such an open innovation strategy challenges organizational boundaries both on the firm and supply chain level, yet our understanding of the functioning of such boundaries and how they can be managed to allow for purposive knowledge flows is limited. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


In a longitudinal case study, the authors trace the development of the first open innovation network in the German automotive industry over a period of five years based on archival data, semi-structured interviews, and field observations.


While the automotive industry is advanced in collaborating with suppliers for innovation, routines for assessing and integrating ideas from sources outside the supply chain are still underdeveloped. The authors show which current knowledge boundaries pose obstacles for open innovation initiatives in this industry, and how they could be mediated through the involvement of gatekeepers.


The authors challenge and clarify the notion of the “permeability of organizational boundaries” in the open innovation literature and investigate the role of gatekeepers for open innovation.



Wilhelm, M. and Dolfsma, W. (2018), "Managing knowledge boundaries for open innovation – lessons from the automotive industry", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 230-248.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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