There was an idea that true innovation could happen within companies. That is what lead to the creation of Bell Labs, or the Xerox research center (PARC). However, that approached changed. Many big companies prefer to acquire younger ones to increase their footprint.
On the one hand, this gives a clear exit strategy to young startups (it was the case with Dispertech, inspired by the NanoSight example). One the other side, companies that do invest on R&D may end up with projects that won't pursue, not because they are not valuable, but because they don't fit their main scope.
When that happens, companies may sit on patents for years without doing anything. The idea behind open innovation is that companies can find ways of interacting with one another in order to build value together instead of independently.
Projects can be spun out as independent companies or as joint ventures. They can be incorporated into companies from other companies, etc.
A nice example is that of Hollywood ([[literature/@chesbrough|@chesbrough]]), where people float around different producers, studios, etc. Ideas are exchanged, transient associations are formed to make a movie or TV show.
Perhaps this is what happens in biotech when different companies possess platforms that may end up helping each other.
What I am surprised about, is that there is, in principle, no correlation between open innovation and open hardware. The purpose is not to make intellectual property publicly accessible, but just finding alternative business models.
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