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Open Source Platforms Beyond Software: From ICT to Biotechnology

Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Platforms

ISBN: 978-1-78743-080-8, eISBN: 978-1-78743-079-2

Publication date: 14 September 2017


Theories of platform strategy and adoption have been largely derived from studies of their application in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector. These platforms vary in openness, with the model of open source software providing the best-known exemplar for open platforms.

This exploratory field study examines the degree to which nine attributes of ICT platforms are applicable to open platforms in biotechnology. Using a combination of interview and secondary data, it identifies three patterns of such biotechnology platforms – IP commons, hackerspaces, and crowdsourced patient registries – and the degree to which these nine attributes apply. It shows the impact of ICT platforms and open source software on open source approaches to biotechnology, and how the latter are affected by the technical, legal, and institutional differences between information technology and biotechnology.

Instead of open source software platforms organized around modular interfaces, complements, ecosystems, and two-sided markets, this study instead suggests a model of open source knowledge platforms which benefits from economies of scale but not indirect network effects. From this, it discusses the generalizability of the ICT-derived models of open source platforms and offers suggestions for future research.




This chapter was made possible through research assistance by Jesse Cuaron, Thuy Truong, and especially Ujval Kondragunta. I gratefully acknowledge valuable feedback from volume co-editor Annabelle Gawer, as well as helpful suggestions during presentations at the 2012 Open and User Innovation Conference, the 2014 Boston University Platform Strategy Research Symposium, and the 2015 World Open Innovation Conference. The usual disclaimers apply.


West, J. (2017), "Open Source Platforms Beyond Software: From ICT to Biotechnology", Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Platforms (Advances in Strategic Management, Vol. 37), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 337-370.



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