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Open Innovation as a Value Chain for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: Determinants of the Use of Open Innovation

Department of European Integration and International Marketing, Faculty of Management and Production Engineering, Lodz University of Technology, 90-924 Lodz, Poland
Sustainability 2020, 12(8), 3290;
Received: 14 March 2020 / Revised: 10 April 2020 / Accepted: 15 April 2020 / Published: 17 April 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Strategy, Innovation and Environmental Sustainability in Value Chains)


The concept of open innovation is currently one of the key issues regarding the innovative development of micro, small, and medium enterprises (SMEs). It has been the subject of research both in the theoretical and empirical context. At present, there is no unambiguous definition conceptualizing the conceptual scope of open innovation (OI). However, enterprises do not always decide by themselves to be open to the environment. Therefore, determinants are important, as they encourage enterprises to greater openness, which can be treated as a key element of a value chain for SMEs, contributing to their innovative development. Classification of these determinants (also named as factors) is very poor in the literature. Generally, internal and external determinants are identified. Authors decide on the selection of these factors and their division by themselves. The research presented in this article has indicated the existence of several significant regularities. Firstly, larger entities are more likely to use the OI concept. Secondly, market determinants are the most important for the use of OI among SMEs. Thirdly, both internal and external determinants have a huge impact on the application of the OI concept, with external determinants being more significant for smaller rather than larger entities. The conclusions drawn were a consequence of the assumed aim of the article: The assessment of the influence of determinants that affect the use of the OI concept among SMEs in Poland.
Keywords: open innovation (OI) as a value for SME; cooperation SME in environment; determinants of using open innovation; small medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) open innovation (OI) as a value for SME; cooperation SME in environment; determinants of using open innovation; small medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

1. Introduction

Open innovation (OI) is increasingly often investigated in the world literature in a variety of contexts and areas. Since the time when OI was first defined by Chesbrough in 2003 [1] (p. 43), it has been the subject of many studies and investigations of both theoretical and empirical nature. Its positive impact on the functioning of enterprises has been proven many times, especially in relation to large enterprises [2] (pp. 414–431). As research has shown, the application of this concept among micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is quite common; however, it encounters some resistance due to various conditions and usually internal barriers. The lack of its use by these enterprises causes irreparable losses, which usually result in restrictions on access to new markets and loss of competitive advantages not only in domestic but also all international markets [3] (pp. 42–43). This is due to the fact that the use of OI enables innovation to be obtained from the environment, which is extremely important for SMEs in Poland. It is influenced by the relatively low level of SME’s own research and development activity (R&D) in Poland, hence the diffusion of knowledge is becoming the basic source of implementation of new solutions for these enterprises. Cooperation with the environment (not only exploitation of limited own resources in this case) provides a huge reservoir of resources for the innovative development of these small and medium-sized enterprises. It is innovation that provides these enterprises with an advantage in the abovementioned markets. In the literature on the subject, the importance and impact of innovation and also OI on competitiveness have been repeatedly discussed and proven [4] (pp. 15–21); [5]. Therefore, it should be stated that innovation is a source of improvement in the market situation of the enterprises in question and OI plays the role of a “tool” for acquiring new solutions through the exploration of the environment. Hence, it is reasonable to put forward the thesis that a too low level of OI use by SMEs in Poland (assuming limited own resources) negatively affects innovation, and thus the competitive position of these enterprises. However, it should be emphasized that the use of OI (and innovative development) is not a prerequisite for the functioning of SMEs, especially in industries (branches) referred to as “traditional” based on the classic division of the branches of industry operating for a long time used in the adopted classification in force in a given country. Often this division is associated with such factors as location, availability of raw materials, or unchanging procedures (formulas) of doing business (manufacturing of final products) used for many years. Hence, the opposite of this type of industry is high-tech industry based on new technologies and continuous development [6] (pp. 187–200). Although it is difficult to state that deficiencies in innovative solutions (and the use of OI) in these industries negatively affect their market position and contribute to economic problems, it can be said that the industries in question lack new directions of development [7]. Therefore, even in such industries, new ideas and solutions are also welcome, contributing to greater efficiency and customer satisfaction. Hence, there is the need to conduct research on factors determining the use of the OI concept among SMEs.
Therefore, it can be concluded that, nowadays, innovation is treated as a factor determining the development of enterprises, especially in relation to SMEs. Since OI is treated in both business practice and literature as one of the elements (new trends, concepts, and paradigms) directly or indirectly affecting the implementation of innovation and innovative development [8] (pp. 326–345), considerable attention should be dedicated to it , especially in the context of the poor development of innovative SMEs in Poland. This fact is even noted by other scholars dealing with issues related to development of these enterprises, which indicates the importance of the existing problem [9]. Considering the economic importance of SMEs in the European economy [10] (pp. 130–144), it can be stated that the issue of improving innovation (and thus the competitiveness of these enterprises on a European or global scale) is becoming a serious challenge for the future. The following data support the above—presented statements regarding SMEs in Poland (the aggregate (summary) innovation indicator (SII) is used to assess the level of innovative development). In 2011–2019, there was a significant decrease in innovation activity conducted by SMEs in Poland (from SII level 29.4 in 2011 to SII level 15.0 in 2019). Especially, it concerned marketing and organizational innovations (13 times) (from the SII level of 27.7 in 2011 to 2.1 in 2019). A slightly smaller decrease was recorded in product and process innovations (by 40%) (from the SII level of 35.7 to 28.1). All these data on both the development of marketing (organizational) and product (process) innovations are below the EU average, which in their case is 35.7 and 34.3, respectively [11] (pp. 62–95); [12]. The reasons for such poor innovative development should be seen in economic and social factors, which can undoubtedly include limited resources (tangible and intangible) [13] (pp. 341–356), mentality of entrepreneurs manifested in fear of losing their own intangible resources (knowledge and its uncontrolled dissemination in the environment), which results in a limited level of openness and using the OI concept, or not sufficiently ‘innovative’ society—characterized by a low propensity for using innovative solutions. According to data, in the research period, i.e., in the years 2008–2016 (analyzed in this article), the average level of OI use among SMEs in European countries amounted to 32.5% [Lichtenthaler (2008)], and in Poland, the involvement of these enterprises in OI was at a similar level—36.8%. In Poland, the largest percentage of SMEs implementing the assumptions of the OI concept concerned the following enterprises: Medium-sized enterprises (40.2%), a slightly lower share of small enterprises (38.3%), and the lowest share of micro enterprises (32.4%). An interesting fact is that the assessment of the importance of this concept for the innovative development of the surveyed SMEs was very high. Over 90% of SMEs indicated (on a five-point scale) its “very large”, “large”, and “average” level of importance for this development [14] (p. 190). Therefore, the question arises: Why, despite such a positive assessment of OI by these enterprises, the application of this concept is still not at a very high level? Answers should be sought in the analysis of determinants that affect the use of open innovation [15] (pp. 213–221) among SMEs in Poland. In addition, the research cited above (questions about the use of OI were asked in the context of innovative development) indicates that the hypothesis that the level of innovative development is correlated with a tendency to cooperate with the environment (using the OI concept) is justified. Therefore, it should be emphasized (once again) that the goal of enterprises is innovative development, while OI is a tool to achieve it (this is indicated by research and models designed by the author of this publication) see [14] (pp. 280–308). Hence, it is justified to indicate the use of OI in the context of innovative development [11] (pp. 62–95), which was done above. The lack of identification of factors influencing the propensity for OI among the discussed SMEs in Poland undoubtedly constitutes a research gap, which is the area of inquiry of many scientists
The main aim of the article is to identify and assess the importance of determinants (factors) of the use of the OI concept among micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The aim was fulfilled by obtaining answers to the following research questions [16] (pp. 932–948); [17] (pp. 1362–1383):
  • RQ1: Which of the factors can be considered significant from the point of view of using the OI concept, and what is their strength and direction of impact?
  • RQ2: Which of factors are perceived as the most important (from the point of view of SMEs) for using the concept?
  • RQ3: What is their level of importance for specific groups of enterprises, i.e., micro, small, and medium?
This article consists of two parts, i.e., theoretical and empirical. In the first part, the concept of OI was conceptualized, presenting the approaches of various authors dealing with this issue and proposing their own definitions of OI. In the second part (based on the author’s own direct research method), there were used such tools as: CATI (computer-assisted telephone interviewing) and CAWI (computer-assisted web interview). These tools (with the use of a specially developed questionnaire) allowed for the collection of primary data for identifying OI determinants broken down into internal and external ones as well as discussing their importance from the SME perspective and the propensity for using them. In addition to primary data, secondary data obtained from the Central Statistical Office were also used (CSO). Both primary and secondary data became the basis for inference. Besides the significant conclusions arising from the conducted research, the author’s considerations regarding the semantic scope of the discussed concept and its conceptualization based on studies of the valuable world literature related to the discussed issues are the undoubted added value of this article.

2. Open Innovation Concept of the Open Innovation and Its Determinants

The subject of this article implies the need to clarify two basic issues, i.e., open innovation, which is referred to in the literature as a concept, paradigm, or model, and determinants affecting its use by business organisations. This concept is considered as one of the main elements ensuring the company’s success in the long term [18] (pp. 176–207).
Let us start by referring to the first of the two issues examined in the article. The concept of OI is relatively new because it was first used by Chesbrough in 2003. The idea itself has much older genealogy. It was noted in the 1970s that large enterprises did not base their R&D activity only on a typical (at that time) model of Freeman’s vertical integration. On the one hand, entities acquire the necessary technologies from the environment, while on the other hand, they sell licenses to the environment [19] (pp. 804–811). Particularly significant were the achievements of von Hippel, who in this period (in the 1970s) described the impact of users, suppliers, and other external entities on the development of the organization [20] (pp. 86–92). In the second half of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, business models in which network connections focused on cooperation and complementary exchange of needed resources started playing a key role in the context of strategic approach [21] (pp. 39–74). This trend intensified particularly in the first half of the new century, providing a contribution to the contemporary understanding of the concept of OI. Currently, open innovation has become the subject of inquiry by many researchers, both from the theoretical and practical point of view of specific organizations [22]; [23] (pp. 39–74).
Open innovation as the subject of scientific inquiry poses a significant problem [24] (pp. 2–9). There is a discussion about the semantic scope of this concept and some concerns about considering open innovation as the subject of scientific research. Some scientists ponder this concept in a research context, others only prove its applicative relevance. Similar to the conceptualization of the term of ‘innovation’ [14] (pp. 53–54), also in the case of open innovations, one can speak of broad and narrow approach to their understanding. The broad approach concerns various organizations in the environment implementing solutions from the outside, the definitions of which are usually of utilitarian character and may relate to a specific situation and/or relate to various enterprises and resources. In turn, the narrow approach is related to a specific economic organization (usually an enterprise). In this sense, OI most often has a cognitive character, i.e., determining its impact on the organization, and relate to intangible resources (knowledge) for technical and technological implementations, which are obtained through the elimination of existing borders with the environment. Of course, the abovementioned division is not entirely “sharp”, which is the result of mutual penetration and overlapping of OI definitions. Nevertheless, it may be an attempt at certain systematization of this concept and its classification. The table below presents examples of definitions regarding open innovation divided into two groups of terms [14,25] (Table 1).
The above-listed definitions represent a different point of view regarding the perception and interpretation of the concept of open innovation. An unquestionable common element is the creation of relations between various organizations for something new (innovative solutions), within the framework of which the flow of resources (usually knowledge) occurs. The differences in relation to the narrow and broad approach, according to the above-presented assumptions, have both object-related and subject-related nature. The former (as can be seen in the table above) focuses on knowledge and its importance for innovative implementations, while emphasizing its impact on the development of enterprises. The latter approach has a looser interpretation, which is undoubtedly an example of adapting the definition to specific user needs (hence their greater applicability). An undoubted example is the definition of Banu [30] (pp. 1020–1027), which covers various entities (governments, research organizations, etc.) and various types of resources (tangible and intangible). A quite interesting approach to OI is the definition referring to the management of decentralized innovation processes among various participants (not only full-time employees) who are able to bring “new values” to the enterprise by conducting “dispersed” R&D activities [15] (pp. 213–221).
In relation to the above-presented classification, open innovation can be considered from the point of view of the subject nature in much more detail. This allows OI to be distinguished in the context of exchange of information and knowledge, as well as various resources, and the one-way or multi-directional exchange of resources, including knowledge (inbound or outbound). The creator of this concept, i.e., Chesbrough, who focuses on knowledge as the main subject of exchange, claims that the goal of OI is to create new technologies by acquiring knowledge from the environment, on the one hand, and on the other, by using already existing own resources. These technologies are intended to increase market competitiveness [1] (pp. 43–63) and [39] (pp. 21–49). In turn, the “resource” context explicitly refers to the definition proposed by Dahlander and Gann. They believe that OI means enabling other enterprises to use their own resources. The inclination to this type of action in relation to the environment may be caused by a lack of certainty as to the benefits of the introduced changes [34] (pp. 699–709). An example of the third type of definition is the approach proposed by Enkel, Grossman, and Chesbrough, in which the authors emphasize that resources (including knowledge) can flow from the environment to the enterprise (or vice versa), which depends mainly on the size of the economic organization [40] (pp. 311–316). In the case of large enterprises, this exchange usually has a two-way character. In relation to small (and micro) entities, it usually takes place between the environment and the enterprise (outside-in flows). The fourth type of approach related to the discussed concept is connected with the definitions proposed by van de Vrande and Lee in which they clearly use the terms “technological exploitation and exploration” in order to maximize the achieved results. Moreover, these authors clearly point to the role of the environment in acquiring new products through cooperation with various organizations located in it [32] (pp. 423–437); [33] (pp. 290–300); [41].
An important element included among the abovementioned definitions (Table 1) is the need to develop internal absorption capabilities in the context of technological exploration of the environment. For the enterprise, these abilities mean skills in the acquisition, use, or creation (based on the resources already available) of new knowledge. The process of creating and developing these capabilities includes, among others, identification in the environment of the necessary intangible resources (which means learning to explore the environment), their assimilation and transfer, and the ability to learn how to transform solutions available in the environment by adapting them to the company’s development strategy. These abilities are particularly important in all kinds of partnerships created among various participants, i.e., between enterprises or enterprises and business environment institutions, as well as enterprises and research units. Therefore, it should be stated that absorption capacity becomes an indicator of cooperation between enterprises and the environment and its exploration in order to obtain the necessary resources (which provide useful knowledge on implemented solutions, allow for shaping and improving ideas, and for supporting development) [42] (pp. 223–231). The importance of absorption capacity within OI is indicated, among others, by Larsen and Salter, who point out that the tendency to acquire knowledge correlates to the ability to implement it from external partners [31] (pp. 131–150) and that absorption capacity affect the level of openness to the environment [34] (pp. 699–709).
Summing up the above-presented definitions, it should be stated that (regardless of their scope) they focus on knowledge (resources), including its flow between the enterprise and entities in the environment (as part of cooperation between them). The purpose of this exchange is to create a new market, and the definitions most often relate to enterprises. These common features become the basis for creating our own definition of open innovation. It defines OI as “a two-way or one-way flow of knowledge (or other resources) made between an enterprise and the environment as part of established cooperation,” based (on the one hand) on the exploration of the environment and (on the other hand) on the exploitation of own resources, i.e., those that are owned by an entity [14] (p. 83). The final effect of this cooperation must be innovative solutions to improve the market competitiveness of the enterprise.
As far as the issue of determinants is concerned, let us begin by explaining that in the universal sense, to determine means to “influence...”. This impact can be considered from a positive or negative point of view. In the case of this article, only those determinants that positively influence the application of the OI concept in economic organizations, in particular in SMEs, will be considered. In the literature, they are very differently defined as factors [43] (pp. 1–20), conditions, motivators [44] (pp. 243–256), or simply determinants [45] (pp. 119–129). There is also no classification in this respect that could contribute to the attempt to define their common parts—similarly to the concept of OI. It can even be said that individual researchers define their own OI determinants whose character is described by the scope of their research. The only common features that can be identified in the literature relate to their division into external and internal ones [18] (pp. 176–207). Among the former, the most frequently mentioned are government programs for innovative development, various forms of support, regional innovative programs, mechanisms for intellectual property protection, and many others [46] (pp. 1–20). In turn, the latter includes a lack of own internal resources—both tangible and intangible [44] (pp. 1024–1036)—as well as a lack of own highly qualified employees and managers [47] (pp. 891–902). The above-presented factors, which are basically barriers, paradoxically become determinants because they force enterprises to cooperate with the environment. Another quite frequently mentioned internal factor is the absorption capacity of an enterprise [48] (pp. 877–896). In a broad sense, it defines the company’s capabilities in the use of external resources (knowledge) and the ability to combine external achievements (from the environment) with its own scientific achievements [49] (pp. 199–210). In addition, the expected benefits that enterprises can obtain as a result of greater openness to the environment resulting from their limited own resources and competences are an important determinant [50] (pp. 393–421).
For a more detailed review of OI determinants, several examples cited in the literature will be used. They are sometimes referred to as the factors influencing the “erosion of closed attitudes”, which in the colloquial speech, means moving away from “close innovation” in favor of open attitudes. The precursor to the emergence of such factors was undoubtedly the creator of the OI, i.e., Chesbrough, who selected a total of five: Increasing the availability and mobility of qualified employees, encouraging entrepreneurs to undertake joint ventures, increasing external opportunities in the commercialization of knowledge, which should eliminate cases of putting the ready-made solutions on the shelf, increasing the ability to transfer knowledge by external suppliers, and the increase in the importance of social media [1]; [51] (pp. 191–207).
In turn, Sag, Sezen, and Alpkan distinguished nine factors that cause “erosion” of a closed attitude in favor of greater openness to the environment. To a large extent, they are based on the above-presented classification. These include [43] (pp. 1–20):
  • The growing importance of information technologies that “increase communication opportunities between people, organizations, and even peoples” contributing to the reduction of costs associated with communication, which in consequence leads to greater interaction and cooperation between various enterprises,
  • The growing importance of globalization, which strengthens ties between various participants, i.e., people, enterprises, and nations. This creates multinational organizations in which the flow of knowledge between various entities from different countries takes place without restrictions, constituting an essential element of the innovative development of these organizations,
  • Increasing the availability and mobility of educated employees. This factor is important due to the fact that the carrier of knowledge is man. The level of diffusion of intangible resources depends on man’s mobility (and thus availability) on a global scale. With the movement of employees, knowledge is exchanged as a result of establishing relationships between them at various levels of professional career,
  • Tendency to establish joint ventures, which manifests itself in the desire to create innovative start-ups in the form of subsidiaries, that are a kind of support usually for large enterprises equipped with sufficiently large financial resources,
  • Eliminating the phenomenon of putting ready-made solutions on the shelf, which generally involves looking for partners in the environment who under certain conditions would be willing to implement “less useful” solutions from the point of view of their discoverer, e.g., under a shared license,
  • Increasing the participation of suppliers in the implementation of external knowledge, where it is the suppliers that constitute an excellent source of acquiring knowledge about new products and solutions. They often operate on the basis of outsourcing, contributing to the obvious benefits that such cooperation can bring to the company, i.e., shortening the product development cycle, reducing costs, and increasing its quality [52] (p. 41),
  • The increase in the intensity of knowledge transfer results from the fact that in the current situation it is difficult to control its flow, especially in relation to large enterprises, i.e., those employing a large number of employees. Therefore, it is better to use its external resources than to introduce restrictions in this area, which should result in faster and more effective innovative development,
  • Increasing the quality of academic research, which should be expressed by increasing the willingness to cooperate between business organizations and universities, both nationally and internationally,
  • Increasing the ability to update knowledge, which is possible thanks to its rapid transfer due to the development of information technology. This technology requires enterprises to accept more open attitudes.
The abovementioned factors of “closed posture erosion” are an extension of the proposal presented (as previously mentioned) by Chesbrough. Their feature is the lack of a clear division into internal and external ones. However, this classification was proposed by Torkkeli (and co-authors) in his article in 2009 [18] (pp. 176–207). Among the internal ones, they mention the following:
  • Level of complementarity of owned resources—generally speaking, there is a rule according to which the more resources owned by an entity are complementary to the environment, the greater the benefits it will obtain from the purchase of additional resources (allowing, among others, quick recombination of old solutions into a new one—greater flexibility in this respect is shown by SMEs),
  • Size of enterprises—has an impact on the direction of OI’s operations; on the one hand, SMEs, due to the limited resources they possess, are to a greater extent “consumers” of innovative solutions available in the environment, on the other hand, the smaller complementarity of their resources results in smaller benefits that they can achieve compared to large enterprises.
  • The scale of research—which has a concrete impact on shaping the propensity to OI. There is a relationship here according to which the larger the scale of research (this applies mainly to large enterprises equipped with appropriate financial resources), the greater the propensity to OI. This is the effect of achieving “side” results from conducted research [53] (pp. 1079–1095); [54] (pp. 953–969).
  • Absorption capacity—generally determines the level of enterprises’ openness to the environment. In general, there exists an interdependence, which confirms that organizations with a higher level of absorption capacity are more open to the environment. Unfortunately, scientists confirm that larger enterprises have a higher level of absorption capacity than small or medium ones. According to this rule, it should be stated that OI refers more to large organizations than SMEs, which is not true [37] (pp. 699–709).
In turn, in relation to external factors, they distinguish the following:
  • Network external effects—they result from the participation of enterprises (especially SMEs) in partner networks in which they receive specific forms of support or use the existing opportunities for their innovative development.
  • Benefits of external cooperation—concern partners who differ in size and their own resources. It is these differences that can provide an impulse to apply the concept of OI, provided that they have a complementary character.
The above-presented division of determinants of the use of open attitudes and “erosion of closed attitudes” is only one of the examples discussed in the literature. Their use in the empirical part of this article is largely limited, mainly for practical reasons, i.e., too wide and not very precise classifications. Nevertheless, they constitute the basis for presenting the author’s own proposal of determinants, where the basic division criterion will be determining internal and external determinants. Within these two groups (in the conducted research), the ones selected from the classification presented by Sag or Torkkeli were taken into account. For example, the following can be mentioned: The growing importance of the human factor in the innovative development of enterprises (its accessibility and involvement), reduction of R&D costs (by intensifying the search for ready solutions in the environment), the need to promote own innovative solutions (and to get rid of solutions that are of little use to the business), and many others. Of course, the classifications presented by these two authors were adapted to the conducted research by specifying or changing the context of the asked questions. However, as mentioned above, the basic division into internal and external determinants was maintained. Among the internal factors, two main subgroups were distinguished. These are objective factors that are the characteristics of the surveyed enterprises (size, market experience, territorial scope, or type of activity) and subjective factors resulting from the answers provided during the research carried out as part of a scientific project implemented among an SME group in Poland in 2016 year. The objective factors result from the current “state” in which the company is at a given moment, while the subjective ones result from the assessment of the current situation by individual enterprises. This assessment is carried out at the level of a single enterprise assessing a given phenomenon; hence, it has a subjective nature. These studies are the basis for answering two important research questions presented in the introduction to this article and for achieving the assumed goal. The identification of external determinants is only subjective in nature, constituting an assessment made by individual enterprises.

3. Method and Scope of Research and Characteristics of the Research Sample

The research was conducted in 2016 on enterprises employing no more than 249 people broken down into six voivodships (which form the basic administrative division in Poland), i.e., Mazowieckie, Lodzkie, Pomeranian, Silesian, Warmian-Masurian, and Wielkopolskie. The selection of these voivodships was dictated by the value of the Index Millenium 2017 taking into account 6 main criteria: Labor productivity, value added rate, R&D expenditure, post-secondary education, people employed in R&D, and the number of patents filed (nationwide data) [55]. On its basis, three main groups of voivodships were selected: A high level, a medium level, as well as a low and very low level of innovative development. The first group includes the following voivodships: Mazowieckie (index: 97) and Pomeranian (index: 74); the second group includes: Lodzkie (index: 58) and Silesian (index: 57); and the last comprises: Wielkopolskie (index: 50) and Warmian-Masurian (index: 41). Their choice was purposeful [55] considering the level of innovative development and taking into account the three abovementioned groups of voivodships [14] (p. 187).
The studies were carried out in two parts (two independent studies), of which the first part (the first study) concerned research related to the characteristics of the level of innovative development and the determination of its determinants among SMEs. The second part of the research was carried out to identify the phenomenon of OI among the analyzed enterprises. Both parts of the conducted research were based on a multi-stage sample selection scheme, which means that they were both purposeful (regarding the basic selection of the sample—innovative SMEs and had a random character (drawing of SMEs for the research sample among innovative enterprises). The necessity of purposeful selection resulted from the basic criterion, which was the lack of a sampling frame, i.e., a database of innovative enterprises (conducting innovative activity), which allowed for the drawing of random draws. The main criteria for purposeful selection were [14] (p. 188):
  • Conducting innovative activity by SMEs (this means that in the last three years, it has introduced at least one solution constituting an innovation, i.e., of a product, process, marketing, or organizational nature),
  • Operating in one of six designated voivodships with a differentiated level of innovativeness, i.e., better and less developed in this respect (this was to maintain the symmetry of the research conducted),
  • The assumption that at least 60% of the surveyed enterprises should conduct manufacturing activity (this was to focus research on “hard” effects in the form of a finished product or technology needed to produce it),
  • The assumption that the survey will cover all industries in the economy, excluding (or limiting) the so-called traditional industries, because deficiencies in innovative solutions and the use of OI among this type of enterprises were not treated as a disadvantage.
In the first part, 2189 such enterprises were selected, and in the second, 10,000. Such a large variation in the number of entities included in the study resulted from the application of different research techniques related to the use of different ways of collecting information, i.e., over the telephone and on the Internet (information on this subject can be found below). Among them, a random draw was made, obtaining in the first part 819 (in the second 800) answers to the questions asked. These numbers (similar in both stages of the study) determining the number of companies surveyed resulted from financial constraints, which means that the funds were sufficient only to cover such a number of SMEs. At the same time, it should be emphasized that this number ensured the representativeness of the research sample [56]. The answers were provided by the owners or competent persons indicated by them.
Those studies were of quantitative nature and were carried out using CATI and CAWI techniques (which was to shorten the time of conducting research), and the obtained data were subjected to statistical processing. The author’s questionnaire was used for the study. Due to CATI and CAWI techniques, the questions were closed, which means that respondents could choose from a number of factors the ones they considered important for their company. Their indications were subjective, i.e., dependent on their will and assessment of the current situation. As indicated above, the research was carried out in two parts, the first of which concerned the characteristics of innovative development (and its determinants), while the other one concerned the identification of the OI phenomenon. However, despite the fact that the questionnaire had an original character, the literature on the subject including several important works was used for the operationalization of the variables in the form of questions used in this questionnaire (Table 2).
The above-presented list does not fully reflect all the literature items used to operationalize the individual elements of the questionnaires used in both the first and second part of the research conducted. The items presented are only selected examples on the basis of which research tools (surveys) were created. It should be emphasized once again that about 50% those questionnaires had an original character. Most problems were related to constructing questions regarding the determination of measures for both innovative development and open innovation. In relation to the second part of the research (concerning OI), an article by van de Vrage presenting the method of measuring this phenomenon in the SME group, broken down into exploration and exploitation of resources, proved particularly helpful [32] (pp. 423–437). In the case of innovative development, the list of sources enabling the operationalization and determination of measures of this development included 24 literature items. Thus, the contribution of external sources to the development of the research questionnaires was enormous. Thanks to the literature studies carried out and the author’s contribution, the conducted research provided data allowing for drawing many interesting conclusions as well as examining the existing relationships between many variables, including the impact of OI on the innovative development of SMEs (this article presents only a very small research area). Obtaining comprehensive data was possible due to the expansion of the questionnaires, which resulted in long and often difficult interviews (in the case of CATI, an interview lasted about 30 min). Hence, the cost of the research was quite high, which meant that (as mentioned above) “only” about 800 companies, both in the first and second part of the research, were covered.
The characteristics of the test sample will be carried out in a synthetic way and will cover two parts, of which the main emphasis will be on the second part due to its importance from the point of view of this article (the studies were directly related to the importance of the OI concept for SMEs and encompassed subjective factors according to the above-presented division criterion). They were conducted on a population of 800 enterprises. The first part of the study was used to assess the relationship between internal objective factors, i.e., the main characteristics of enterprises and their impact on the discussed concept of OI (conducted on a population of 819 enterprises). Therefore, it should be emphasized that the inference was based on the results of research carried out on two independent research samples, one of which comprised 819 enterprises, while the other 800. The use of two research parts in those studies did not have a negative impact on the results achieved, as it concerned other aspects of research.
When presenting the research sample, it should be noted that the main attention will be focused on several key elements, such as the size of enterprises participating in the study, spatial diversion (selection of voivodships), market experience (age of enterprises), or the territorial market scope of conducted activity. As far as the first of the abovementioned elements is concerned, the largest share included small and micro enterprises and the smallest share included medium-sized enterprises. This is shown in the chart below (Figure 1).
With regard to the second element, during the first stage, the majority of SMEs were surveyed in the following voivodeships: Lodzkie (where micro enterprises constituted the greatest share at 18.3% and medium-sized ones constituted the smallest share at 15.9%), Mazowieckie (including the greatest share of small enterprises at 21. 8% and medium-sized ones at 22.1%), Pomeranian (where micro enterprises were the largest group at 20.4% and medium-sized enterprises constituted the smallest group at 13.8%), Silesian (where micro enterprises were the largest group at 19.4% and medium-sized enterprises constituted the smallest group at 17.4%), and Wielkopolskie (where medium-sized enterprises constituted the largest surveyed group at 23.1%). The fewest innovative enterprises were surveyed in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship—only 8.4%. During the second stage of the study, this distribution was very similar to the first stage in terms of enterprise groups and the overall share of SMEs in individual voivodships, as shown in the chart below (Figure 2).
Based on the above-presented data, it can be concluded that the distribution of the sample was evenly uniform (except for Warmia and Mazury, where the number of active innovative enterprises is relatively the smallest).
When characterizing the third of these elements, i.e., market experience, it should be noted that the first stage of research is dominated by mature enterprises, i.e., those whose age is above 10 years, and in the second stage by growing enterprises, i.e., those whose age is between 3 and 10 years. Generally speaking, the research is dominated by enterprises shaped in terms of their innovative development, which is very important from the point of view of the results obtained. The smallest number of entities was the group of “start-up” enterprises, i.e., those operating for no more than 3 years. Structure indicators illustrating this third element are presented in the table below (Table 3).
The above-presented data indicate that in this study on the use of the OI concept by SMEs, entities the most willing to apply its assumptions in practice are organizations that are in the mature and growth phase. This is probably due to the fact that by using new solutions (innovations) they are “forced” to cooperate in this respect with the environment (and in the environment with other enterprises), which translates into their greater propensity to use OI.
The last element characterizing the research sample concerns the territorial market scope. Most of the enterprises “qualified” for this study (both during the first and second stage of the research) conducted their activities in the foreign (European) and domestic market. The obtained data presenting the results of territorial market scope by size of enterprises are presented in the table below (Table 4).
In the domestic market, the most entitles (over 37%) are micro enterprises (and they are also the most important in this market). In turn, the majority of surveyed medium-sized enterprises indicated the foreign market (in the European area) as the dominant territory of their business activity. This proves that larger enterprises with better developed resources are able to go abroad and compete successfully in foreign markets. This clearly indicates that there is a correlation between the size of the enterprise and its resources [14] (pp. 187–194).

4. Research Results

4.1. Internal Determinants of Using the OI Concept—Objective Nature

The main intention related to the presentation of the results of the research conducted in 2016 is to obtain answers to several important research questions. The first concerns the issue related to the existence of relationships between the company’s internal characteristics and their impact on the use of the OI concept by SMEs. Thus, here the research question can be posed as follows: (RQ1) Which of the internal (objective) factors (which are also the characteristics of these enterprises) can be considered as determinants of the use of the OI concept and what is their strength and direction of impact? This applies to three selected features, such as company size, market experience, and territorial market scope. To assess the importance of these factors in the process of using OI by SMEs, the results of research carried out in the first research stage were used (819 enterprises answered the questions asked).
The size of the enterprise will be the first of the factors analyzed (in accordance with the research characteristics of the sample). To assess the impact of this factor on the use (or not) of the OI concept, the chi square test of independence was used, the value of which was 40.41, which for the significance level p < 0.05 indicates that the size of the enterprise and the use OI concepts by SMEs are dependent. To determine the strength of this relation, the T-Czuprow convergence factor was used, which in this case was 0.348. According to the adopted scale, this means a moderate (medium) strong relationship. Therefore, it can be stated that the size of enterprises is a determinant of the use of the OI concept among SMEs in Poland.
The next part of the research question concerns the direction of impact. Parametric tests for mean values were used to evaluate it. The obtained results are presented in the table below (Table 5).
The above-presented table indicates a positive direction of the relationship between the size and the level of the use of the OI concept. In addition, it should be noted that the average level of significance increases with the size of the surveyed enterprises (and thus the use of this concept increases). In practice, this means that the level of OI use is greater for larger enterprises, i.e., small (4.45) and medium (4.83), than for micro enterprises (3.70). Hence, it is reasonable to state that the larger the enterprise, the greater the importance of the OI concept and the greater its application [7] (p. 291). Therefore, it should be emphasized once again that the size of the enterprise is a significant determinant of the application of the OI concept among SMEs in Poland.
The second of the objective internal factors whose importance from the point of view of the determinant will be considered is the age of the enterprise (its market experience). In the case of its assessment by means of the chi square test of independence, the achieved value was 2.722, with the significance level p > 0.05. This allows us to state that the age of the company has no major impact on the level of significance, i.e., the use of the OI concept. Therefore, it cannot be confirmed that the market age of the surveyed SMEs is a determinant of the use of open innovation in Poland [10] (p. 292).
The third factor, which is the territorial market scope, was subjected to a similar procedure assessing its impact on the use of the OI concept. The calculated chi square test of independence in this case was 61.807 at p < 0.05, which is the relationship between these two variables, i.e., the territorial market scope and the use of the OI concept by SMEs in Poland. This confirms the strength of this relationship, which was determined using the T-Czuprow convergence coefficient according to the adopted scale as strong (0.511). It can therefore be concluded that this factor is a determinant affecting the propensity to use OI by the enterprises concerned. However, due to the fact that these studies did not directly ask respondents about the relationship between territorial coverage and the use of the concept of OI, it is difficult to conclude about the existence of causality. This means that in practice, this relationship can be reversed: The more enterprises apply the assumptions of the OI concept, the more they are able to operate in markets with a larger territorial range (explore new foreign markets). Therefore, the interpretation of this determinant should be approached in an extremely cautious way.
As in the case of the “enterprise size”, the direction of impact will also be defined here. Parametric tests of average values were used for its assessment. They are presented in the table below (Table 6).
The table presented above shows that the relationship is positive; what is more, it can be said that there is a regularity indicating that the greater the territorial range, the greater the level of use of the OI concept. In the case of local enterprises, the average level was 2.92 and in relation to global enterprises it increased to the average of 5.12. Therefore, it should be emphasized once again that the territorial market scope is an extremely important determinant influencing the use of open innovation by SMEs [14] (p. 293). However, it should be emphasized once again that due to the lack of investigation into the cause and effect relationship between these two variables, it is difficult to conclude with complete conviction that it is the market reach that determines the use of the OI concept and not the other way around. As previously indicated, there is also a relation between the size of the enterprise and territorial coverage (larger enterprises have larger territorial coverage). Also, in this case, the interpretation of the relationship between these two variables is apparent. This would mean that greater coverage determines the size of the enterprise and affects the use of OI. This is undoubtedly a limitation of these studies.

4.2. Internal Determinants of Using the OI Concept—Subjective Nature

As mentioned earlier, apart from the objective internal factors, the subjective factors determined by the enterprises in question during the research (800 enterprises on the sample) will also be analyzed. The structure indicators obtained in the calculations on the number of indications of individual factors (and the number of enterprises indicating individual factors as determinants of the use of OI) will be used for the analysis. The research carried out in the second stage was used to identify them, i.e., the study directly related to the use of the OI concept among SMEs. Therefore, the research questions posed here relate to the next issue, i.e., the assessment of the importance of the OI concept for SMEs and thus its use. The research questions posed is as follows: (RQ2) Which of the determinants included in the conducted research are perceived as the most important for the use of the OI concept by SMEs and (RQ3) what is their level of importance for particular groups of enterprises? According to the classification proposed by various authors (discussed in the theoretical part), internal and external determinants will be presented separately. The first group is presented in the table below (Table 7).
The following data show that the majority of enterprises indicated two basic internal determinants affecting the use of the OI concept by micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises. These include willingness to improve their internal innovativeness (58.3% of respondents—the first factor) and willingness to attract new customers (51% of respondent—the second factor), i.e., in a combined sense, it can be read as “the need to improve competitiveness by increasing the level of enterprise innovativeness.” In the first case, the greatest number of “supporters” treating this factor as the most important among the others can be found in the group of “medium-sized” (61.5%) and “small” (61.1%) enterprises. In the second case, most indications of this type concern small enterprises, because experiencing expansive development they see the need for market expansion (in the long run, they become medium-sized enterprises).
Answering the second part of the research question, it should be stated that the importance of these two factors among the surveyed enterprises is very high. Taking into account only the answers at the level of “very high” and “high” importance, it should be emphasized that 75% of respondents confirm the huge role of “novelty” in shaping attitudes open to the environment (Table 8).
The largest share of this type of attitude applies to medium-sized and small enterprises, because they feel the greatest need for internal development, being aware of the importance of innovation in shaping competitiveness in the environment. Hence, their huge role in using the OI concept. The situation is very similar in relation to the second factor, i.e., the desire to acquire new customers. This is shown in the table below (Table 9).
Over 77% of respondents claim that acquiring new customers is very important or important to them. However, the vast majority concerns mainly medium-sized and small enterprises (compared to micro) in relation to the first type of response (34.3% and 30.8%, respectively). In other cases, micro enterprises also indicate the importance of this factor in using the OI concept. Hence, it can be concluded that, on the one hand, this factor is very important for the largest enterprises among SMEs, and on the other hand, that it has a universal character, i.e., its significance is great for all groups of enterprises—prompting them to apply the assumptions of the concept.

4.3. External Determinants of Using the OI Concept

Considering, in turn, the second type of determinants, i.e., external ones, it can be concluded that market factors are also key factors, i.e., the need to improve competitiveness in the environment (51.3%—the first factor in the order) and the need to improve your image in the environment (41.6%—the second most important factor). In their case, the environment plays the role of an external stimulator, which enforces specific behavior among enterprises, “encouraging” them to cooperate with other entities in the environment. Thus, it increases the propensity to use the concept of OI. The table below presents selected external determinants indicated by SMEs in the study (Table 10).
In both cases, these factors were most often mentioned by all groups of enterprises, and to the greatest extent by medium-sized enterprises. This confirms the earlier (above) implied theses according to which larger enterprises have the largest “market needs”, which is associated with their greater expansion in both marketing (intensification of sales activities) and spatial sense. Hence, these determinants play an important role in shaping attitudes open to the environment. Answering the second part of the research question regarding the relevance level of these factors, it can be stated that the importance level of both internal and external factors is very similar (Table 9). Two groups of answers are dominant, i.e., concerning both “large” and “very large” importance. Their total share is about 77% of all answers given in the case of the first of the listed factors, i.e., regarding improvement of competitiveness (Table 11).
However, the level of importance by company group is no longer as obvious as was the case with internal factors. Regarding external factors, the rule concerning the highest level of importance in relation to the largest enterprises in the category “very important” is no longer applicable. It only applies to the level labeled ‘large’. The lack of this regularity is also visible in the case of the second factor; what is more, the reverse tendency can be noticed. It consists in the fact that the relevance of these factors becomes more important for smaller than larger enterprises (i.e., micro than medium), which is the opposite of what happened in the case of internal determinants (in the category ‘very important’). In addition, there are no other significant differences (Table 12).
Therefore, it can be concluded that in general terms, the factors most often mentioned by SMEs determining the use of the OI concept have a market character. The market is therefore the main determinant influencing the use of open innovation. However, in the division into enterprise groups, the importance of these factors depends on the size of the entity in question. Their greatest significance is attributed to larger than smaller enterprises. The exception here are external factors, among which marketing factors in the category “very important” refer more to micro enterprises. This may mean an increase in awareness of these enterprises as to the role of the environment (including the market) in shaping their competitive position and the importance of open innovation in this process. Therefore, they begin to treat it as a source of resources (including knowledge) in the process of their innovative development.

5. Discussion and Conclusions

The above OI determinants analysis has its serious limitations. It does not take into account all the major factors affecting the use of OI among the discussed small and medium enterprises in Poland. The main attention is focused only on selected ones, which were the subject of research conducted in 2016. In addition, another limitation is the lack of causality regarding some of the determinants discussed. This applies to, among others, the impact of territorial coverage, the size of the surveyed enterprises, and the propensity for using the OI concept. In practice, this means that these two factors (market reach and size of enterprises) should be treated (despite the statistical relationship demonstrating the existence of mutual influence) with some caution. However, it should be emphasized that an undoubted advantage of this article is the division of these factors into subjective and objective ones, which allowed for a multidimensional analysis of this phenomenon. Another important limitation of the discussed research (in this article) is, without fail, the inability to isolate those factors that have a negative impact on the use of the concept of OI. However, it is not possible to include all the elements that concern the analyzed issues in a short study (article). It is necessary to concentrate only on those elements that constitute the main point of reflection (in this case, the positive impact of determinants on the use of open innovation among SMEs). OI is an element that has an impact on creating a value chain for these enterprises.
The considerations contained in this article are the basis for drawing several basic conclusions. Firstly, the definitions of open innovation are very similar in terms of meaning, although their scope is quite diverse. They focus on such concepts as resources, cooperation with the environment, innovative development (innovation), two-sided (or unilateral flow of resources (outbound and inbound), or elimination of boundaries between the enterprise and the environment [69] (pp. 1–18). The diversity has objective and subjective character, i.e., it concerns various entities, and from this point of view, it can be considered in a narrow and broad sense. Secondly, based on the literature on the subject, it can be concluded that there is a lack of systematic and full classification of determinants of the use of the OI concept, i.e., positively affecting the increase in the propensity to use open innovation by the SMEs in question. The only classification concerns the division into internal and external determinants, which include very different factors. Among the former type of determinants, the absorption capacity of the enterprise will play the key role, and among the latter, the market and the environment of the enterprise (entities operating in it) [18] (pp. 176–207). The division of these factors generally depends on the scope of research and the point of view of individual authors. Thirdly, in the article, three essential characteristics of SMEs are listed, which are also internal factors that may affect the use of OI. Based on the results of research conducted in 2016, it turns out that only two of them can act as determinants of OI (the size of enterprises and their territorial market scope). It was possible to determine the relationships according to which larger enterprises are more likely to use OI [32] (pp. 423–437) and by analogy: The more the enterprises conducts its business activity on a wider market, the tendency to use the OI concept (and its assumptions) increases. The above-presented factors, due to their independent (from research responses) character, have been described as objective. Fourthly, among the subjective factors of an internal nature, enterprises indicated several, but only two of them obtained a large number of indications, both in the group of internal and external factors. Their nature is fully market-related, which means that the market is the main determinant influencing the application of the OI concept [70] (pp. 135–156). Moreover, these enterprises are increasingly aware of the role that the environment plays in shaping their competitiveness and the importance of the concept of OI in this process. Fifth, both internal and external factors affecting the use of OI have been assessed by over 75% respondents as very important or important (high level of significance), which suggests that they should be treated as important determinants of the use of this concept. Sixth, there is no visible diversification of these determinants in relation to enterprise groups. The general tendency is their greater importance for larger enterprises (small and medium) than smaller ones (small and micro). The only exception is the assessment of external factors, where micro organizations have the largest share in the “very important” category. Therefore, it can be concluded that external determinants for micro enterprises are relatively more important than internal ones. However, this thesis is not fully justified, because in the “high importance” category, this was not confirmed. Therefore, it should be emphasized that both internal and external market-related factors are the main determinants influencing the use of the OI concept by SMEs in Poland [71] (pp. 236–242). The above-presented conclusions (from the third to the sixth) are the answers obtained to the research questions posed in this article.
The above-presented considerations on the range of determinants of the use of the OI concept among SMEs in Poland do not exhaust the discussed issues. Further studies seem to be necessary on issues related to the use of the OI concept by small and medium-sized enterprises. Research should focus on several key issues. Firstly, studies should concentrate on monitoring the level of the use of open innovation, and thus the level of willingness to cooperate with other organizations in the environment. Secondly, they should provide answers to questions about existing stereotypes among entrepreneurs in Poland, who in most cases, feel a clear reluctance to cooperate with others. It is necessary to study existing mentality and beliefs that hinder establishing relationships between enterprises. Thirdly, these studies should deepen knowledge of the importance of the market in making decisions regarding the use of the OI concept discussed in this article. Obtaining answers to the abovementioned issues will undoubtedly constitute a decisive “step forward” in terms of issues related to innovation, innovativeness of Polish SMEs, and their use of open innovation. Innovation (and, in principle, innovative development) is a key element in improving the competitiveness of enterprises on foreign markets. A lack of such development will result in market exit of those enterprises that focus their strategy only on factors related to the price of the product (and not its innovation). In the era of ‘prosperity’, price will become a secondary factor in the fight for customer attention—ideas and innovative solutions will matter [12].
The above-presented indications regarding the need to conduct further research related to the use of the OI concept among SMEs allow for the formulation of several recommendations. First of all, entrepreneurs should be encouraged to use this concept by indicating benefits that they can achieve from its application. This is especially true for micro and small enterprises among which the propensity for using OI is relatively low. It is important in this regard to make these groups of entrepreneurs aware of the need to open themselves to the environment in order to search for the necessary resources. The lack of awareness of the importance of OI (in these groups of enterprises) is particularly evident in relation to its impact on improving competitiveness by increasing the level of enterprise innovation. Hence, the need to implement measures to promote open attitudes (discussions to which entrepreneurs will be invited or greater focus on this issue in the professional press). Secondly, it seems that from a practical point of view, “raising awareness” is not enough. There is a need for specific external support, which is extremely important for the smallest entities. An example of “good practices” in this area can be the creation of partnerships, for example, in the form of clusters bringing together companies of all sizes whose goal will be to protect their interests and to respond flexibly to market needs in the field of innovative solutions.


This research was funded by the National Center for Science on the basis of decision number DEC-2012/07/B/HS4/03085.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. Division of the research sample by enterprise groups (size of enterprises). (a) first part of research; (b) second part of research.
Figure 1. Division of the research sample by enterprise groups (size of enterprises). (a) first part of research; (b) second part of research.
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Figure 2. Division of the research sample by voivodships (spatial distribution). (a) first part of research; (b) second part of research.
Figure 2. Division of the research sample by voivodships (spatial distribution). (a) first part of research; (b) second part of research.
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Table 1. Selected open innovation (OI) definitions broken down into a broad and narrow view.
Table 1. Selected open innovation (OI) definitions broken down into a broad and narrow view.
Author.DefinitionsKey Words
Broad view
Lazzarotti & Manzini [26]Cooperation with various partners in the environment and with a large number of partners.Cooperation with numerous partners
Leadbreater [27]Formation in the environment of partnerships creating innovations. A mass approach fostering the involvement of many organizations (not just enterprises) in the innovation process. Created innovations are “consumed” by enterprises.Cooperation with partners—not necessarily with enterprises.
Wallin & Krough [28]The process of creating knowledge and its use for the development and introduction of something new and useful.Knowledge process.
Hossain & Anees-ur-Rehman [29]Efficiency in acquiring external knowledge in order to create internal innovations for external markets.Knowledge to create innovation.
Banu et al. [30]Applies to governments, research organizations, customers and consumers, suppliers, and business actors, consists in combining human, financial, material resources, knowledge, and information to obtain valuable solutions (innovations).Various resources for creating new solutions.
Narrow view
Laursen & Salter [31]The tendency to acquire knowledge from external sources depends on the ability to implement it from the environment, and thus provides a greater opportunity for the development of an innovative enterprise. OI is a model that uses many “actors” and many sources to achieve the needed innovative solutions.Exchange of knowledge as a condition of enterprise development.
OI as a business model.
van de Vrande et al. [32]Enterprises combine both technology exploitation and technology exploration in order to create maximum value from their technological capabilities—the open innovation model implies that the management and organization of innovation processes become more complex, i.e., open innovation includes many more activities than just those that were assigned to a traditional R&D department.Exploration and exploitation of technological resources—a greater role of the environment in obtaining new products
Gassmann et al. [15]The operational functioning of open innovation depends on enterprises ability to manage decentralized innovation processes and often includes participants who are not even on the company’s payroll. Management of decentralized innovation processes
Lee et al., [33]Open innovation happens, only when an enterprise worked with another enterprise (…), involved actively in the collaboration, contributing a lot to the innovation process through market exploitation, market test, or customer needs analysis. Or if an enterprise (…) collaborate with a manufacturing enterprise, there can be another type of open innovation at the commercialization stage. The innovation on collaboration process can be divided into two parts—‘technology exploration’ for technology opportunity and ‘technology exploitation’ for market opportunityTechnology exploration and technology exploitation for innovative development based on the collaboration
Dahlander & Gann [34]Two-sided (Outbound and Inbound) use of resources by companies introducing innovations. Sharing your own resources results from a lack of certainty as to the benefits of the changes. Enterprises with a higher level of absorption capacity are more open to the environment.Exploration and exploitation of own resources for innovation. The role of absorption capacity
Tidd [35]Enterprises should acquire resources from external companies and use internal resources to develop new services and products.Exploration and exploitation of own resources.
Bengtsson et al. [36]Focus on managing knowledge flows and eliminating organizational boundaries with the environment.Flow of knowledge and eliminating borders.
Greco et al. [37]Innovative ability of companies resulting from reactions with other companies.Cooperation with other enterprises
Zobel et al. [38]Use of external knowledge by companies and increasing cooperation with various external partners.Knowledge and cooperation with other enterprises.
Table 2. References to the literature used in the process of operationalization of the variables in the questionnaire.
Table 2. References to the literature used in the process of operationalization of the variables in the questionnaire.
Research PartLiterature – Examples
First research part:
Determining measures of the level of innovative development in five main areas: expenditures, outcomes, organizational learning, innovation process, and innovation strategy.
Identifying sources of innovative development.
Identifying determinants of innovative development.
Determining benefits of and barriers to innovative development.
Adams et al. [57]; Anderson & West [58]; Forsman [59]; Hall & Baghci - Sen [60]; Hempel [61]; Kaplan & Norton [62]; Lee [63]; Mankin [64]; Parthasarthy & Hammond [65]; Subramanian & Nilakanta [66]
Second research part:
Determining measures of the OI utilization level.
Characteristics of the importance of individual measures determining the level of the OI use.
Analysis of the direction of the flow of resources (knowledge) – models.
Determining the importance of individual entities in the flow of knowledge.
van de Vrande et al. [32]; Laursen [67]; Lee et al. [33]; de Jong et al, [49]; Marais [68]
Table 3. Division of the research sample by groups and market experience.
Table 3. Division of the research sample by groups and market experience.
Market Experience.The Size of EnterprisesTogether
N% N% N% N%
First research part N = 819
Start-up enterprises (up to 3 years)124.392.721.0232.8
Growing enterprises (from 3 to 10 years)7426.33611.0209.513015.9
Mature enterprises (over 10 years)19569.428486.318789.566681.3
Total281 329 209 819
Second research part N = 800
Start-up enterprises (up to 3 years)6823.93912.1115.611814.8
Growing enterprises (from 3 to 10 years)17862.724977.617388.7600 75.0
Mature enterprises (over 10 years)3813.43310.3115.68210.3
Total284 321 195 800
N—number of entities; %—percentage.
Table 4. Division of the research sample by groups and territorial market scope.
Table 4. Division of the research sample by groups and territorial market scope.
Type of MarketThe Size of Enterprises (w %)Together
N% N% N% N%
First research part N = 819
Poviat market5519.6226.762.98310.1
Regional Market3211.4247.352.4617.5
Domestic market10537.39930.04320.624730.1
Foreign market (European)7526.713741.710851.732039.0
Global market145.04714.34722.510813.2
Total281 329 209 819
Second research part N = 800
Poviat market196.7165.031.5384.8
Regional Market186.3216.5115.6506.3
Domestic market10637.38426.23719.022728.4
Foreign market (European)12142.614244.29448.235744.6
Global market207.05818.15025.612816.0
Total284 321 195 800
N—number of entities; %—percentage.
Table 5. Results of descriptive statistics on average sample values for the size of enterprises.
Table 5. Results of descriptive statistics on average sample values for the size of enterprises.
The Size of EnterprisesMedian OI Significance LevelAverage OI Significance Level Number of Enterprises
Table 6. Results of descriptive statistics on average sample values for the territorial market scope.
Table 6. Results of descriptive statistics on average sample values for the territorial market scope.
Territorial Market ScopeMedian OI Significance LevelAverage OI Significance LevelNumber of Enterprises
Local market32.92883
Regional Market33.37761
Domestic market44.283247
Foreign market (European)44.653320
Global market45.120108
Table 7. The most frequently mentioned internal determinants determining the use of OI by small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Table 7. The most frequently mentioned internal determinants determining the use of OI by small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Selected DeterminantsMicroSmallMediumTogether
The need to improve company resources12817.445.013815.643.10517.953.837116.846.3
The need to improve business stability10013.635.210111.431.4528.926.625311.631.6
Willingness to attract new customers (second factor)14019.049.316919.252.79916.950.840818.551.0
The need to promote own innovative solutions7710.527.1869.726.86711.534.323010.428.7
Willingness to create and implement new products in the company (first factor)15120.553.219622.261.112020.561.546721.258.3
The need to reduce the costs of innovative activities (R&D)547.419.0758.523.3589.929.71878.523.3
The need to reduce the costs of production - technological modernization314.210.9414.612.7355.917.91074.813.3
The need to increase employee activity for their own innovation547.419.0778.723.9498.525.11808.222.5
Total number of indications735 883 585 2203
Number of enterprises in individual groups284321195800
N—number of indications; *%—share relative to the number of indications; **%—division relative to the number of enterprises in the group.
Table 8. The level of importance of the first factor in the context of using the OI concept among SMEs.
Table 8. The level of importance of the first factor in the context of using the OI concept among SMEs.
Level of ImportanceMicroSmallMediumTogether
Very large3120.34020.43428.310522.5
Very small00.010.500.010.2
Difficult to say00.
Number of enterprises that responded151 196 120 467
N—number of entities; %—percentage.
Table 9. The level of importance of the second factor in the context of using the OI concept among SMEs.
Table 9. The level of importance of the second factor in the context of using the OI concept among SMEs.
Level of ImportanceMicroSmallMediumTogether
Very large3827.15230.83434.312430.4
Very small00.
Difficult to say21.400.000.020.5
Number of enterprises that responded140 169 99 408
N—number of entities; %—percentage.
Table 10. The most frequently indicated external determinants influencing the use of OI by SMEs.
Table 10. The most frequently indicated external determinants influencing the use of OI by SMEs.
Selected DeterminantsMicroSmallMediumTotal
Impact of the environment on improving competitiveness12827.245.016928.852.611428.358.541128.151.3
Increasing customer loyalty5611.919.77312.422.54711.724.117612.022.0
Improving the company’s image11524.440.513523.042.08320.642.533322.841.6
Increasing the number of contacts with external partners9720.634.19516.329.66616.433.825817.632.2
The need to operate in partnerships153.25.2152.54.7235.611.8533.66.6
The need to use EU funds in the framework of projects6012.721.110017.031.17017.435.923015.728.7
Total number of indications471 587 403 1461
Number of enterprises in individual groups284321195800
N—number of indications; *%—share relative to the number of indications; **%—division relative to the number of enterprises in the group.
Table 11. The level of importance of the first factor as an external determinant affecting the use of the OI concept among SMEs.
Table 11. The level of importance of the first factor as an external determinant affecting the use of the OI concept among SMEs.
Level of ImportanceMicroSmallMediumTotal
Very large3527.35432.02320.211227.3
Very small00.
Difficult to say00.
Number of enterprises that responded128 169 114 411
N—number of entities; %—percentage.
Table 12. The level of importance of the second factor as an external determinant affecting the use of the OI concept among SMEs.
Table 12. The level of importance of the second factor as an external determinant affecting the use of the OI concept among SMEs.
Level of ImportanceMicroSmallMediumTotal
Very large2723.51611.91315.75616.8
Very small00.
Difficult to say10.921.500.030.9
Number of enterprises that responded115 135 83 333
N—number of entities; %—percentage.
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