To read this content please select one of the options below:

Examining open innovation practices in low-tech SMEs: insights from an emerging market

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

Journal of Science and Technology Policy Management

ISSN: 2053-4620

Article publication date: 4 September 2019

Issue publication date: 2 October 2019




Much of the scholarly works on open innovation have significantly highlighted the application of the model in high-tech industries in the developed world. However, how the phenomenon applies in low-tech small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries is still marginal and lacks substantive research. This study aims to draw on the network theory of innovation to examine the open innovation orientations of low-tech SMEs in an emerging market context, particularly Ghana.


The research design used was a qualitative–quantitative approach: the qualitative phase of the study, involving 31 low-tech SMEs, used a multiple case approach through semi-structured interviews and analyzed the interview responses using NVivo statistical tool; the quantitative phase, including 706 low-tech SMEs, also used a survey questionnaire approach and descriptively analyzed data collected using SPSS statistical tool.


Results disclose that the low-tech SMEs’ employment of the open innovation model are preponderantly driven by commercialization purposes, knowledge acquisition motives, financial motives and strategic motives, whereas their open innovation approaches include inbound strategies (collaboration with suppliers, co-creation/customer immersion), outbound strategies (IP licensing out) and coupled strategies (strategic alliances, contract manufacturing, and joint ventures). Moreover, the findings show that the SMEs’ preferred open innovation partners include suppliers, customers, private universities and non-industry, in that order. Finally, results show that the low-tech SMEs’ open innovation advantages include market gains, strategic gains, knowledge gains, operational gains, financial gains and network gains, whereas their open innovation challenges colossally were collaboration barriers and organizational barriers.

Practical implications

These findings purvey valuable perceptiveness for managers, academicians and policymakers alike; they highlight the importance of open innovation to low-tech SMEs, proven strategies, challenges involved and the mechanisms for effective and efficient adoption of the open innovation model.


The value of this study reclines in the extension of open innovation research from high-tech industries in the advanced world to low-tech SMEs in emerging economies. Results of the study enrich the knowledge and understanding of how the theoretical model of open innovation is adopted and implemented by the low-tech SME sector in emerging economies.



Oduro, S. (2019), "Examining open innovation practices in low-tech SMEs: insights from an emerging market", Journal of Science and Technology Policy Management, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 509-532.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles