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Research Policy
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Learning at the boundaries in an “Open Regional Innovation System”: A focus on firms’ innovation strategies in the Emilia Romagna life science industry
Fiorenza Belussi a,∗ , Alessia Sammarra b,1 , Silvia Rita Sedita a,2
a b

Department of Economics and Management, University of Padova, Via del Santo 33, 35123 Padova, Italy Faculty of Economics, University of L’Aquila, Via Giovanni Falcone 25, 67100 Coppito (AQ), Italy

a r t i c l e

i n f o

a b s t r a c t
The paper investigates the existence of an Open Regional Innovation System (ORIS model). This model is characterised by the firms’ adoption of an open innovation strategy, which overcomes not only the boundaries of the firms but also the boundaries of the region. Using data collected in a sample of life science firms, our research provides the evidence that the Emilia Romagna RIS has evolved towards an ORIS model, where firms’ innovation search strategy, despite being still embedded in local nets (involving several regional public research organisations – PROs), is open to external-to-the-region research networks and knowledge sources. It also shows that innovation openness influences significantly the firms’ innovative performance. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Article history: Received 28 February 2007 Received in revised form 6 October 2009 Accepted 20 January 2010 Available online xxx Keywords: Life science sector Learning at the boundaries Regional Innovation Systems Networks Open innovation model

1. Introduction Over the last decades several new concepts have emphasised the systemic character of innovation, which overcomes the old view of innovation being just a specialised activity that depends directly on the amount of resources involved in subsidised science and in internal-to-the firms R&D laboratories (Audretsch et al., 2002; Metcalfe, 2005). This has been elaborated along different directions, looking at innovation as: • an interactive linked-chain connecting numerous departments (R&D, design and engineering) and activities within a firm (Kline and Rosenberg, 1986); • a complex modality (Carlsson, 1994) involving private and public actors, through industry–university collaborations, claimed to be fruitful for both the actors involved in the relationship, within a national system of innovation or a triple-helix approach (Etzkowitz, 1998; Freeman, 1987; Lundvall, 1992); • a specific system characterised by its sectoral dimension, where innovation and technological change show different rates, types, and trajectories, depending on the sector in which they take place,

and where agents and institutions of a sector exert a major influence (Malerba, 2002, 2004); • a distributed process (Coombs and Metcalfe, 2000; Robertson and Smith, 2008) that integrates components, skills and knowledge from several organisations especially in the fields characterised by increasing modularisation of complex products (Brusoni and Prencipe, 2001) and decomposability of innovation-related tasks (Valentin and Jensen, 2003); • a geographically bounded spatial system, whose extension can be either national3 or regional, or local (Cooke et al., 1997; Cooke, 1998; Lundvall, 1992; Nelson, 1993; Saxenian, 1994). In a globalised (and interconnected) world, the examination of spatial

∗ Corresponding author. Tel.: +39 049 827 4051; fax: +39 049 827 4211. E-mail addresses: fiorenza.belussi@unipd.it (F. Belussi), sammarra@ec.univaq.it (A. Sammarra), silvia.sedita@unipd.it (S.R. Sedita). 1 Tel.: +39 0862 336671; fax: +39 0862 336481. 2 Tel.: +39 049 827 4236; fax: +39 049 827 4211. 0048-7333/$ – see front matter © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.respol.2010.01.014

3 As argued by Carlsson and Stankiewicz (1995), nation-state constitutes a natural boundary of many technological systems, but sometimes, it makes sense to talk about a regional or local system. The elements of a shared culture (including conventions, which are tacit, and rules of the game, which are more codified elements embedded in micro-institutions), common administrative and political dimension are another parameter discussed in Cooke et al. (1997): RISs form a mosaic within a single national system of innovation. A key question with respect to RISs is the extent to which they are systemic. The basic point is that there are a number of discrete elements connected by specific relationships. The RIS can be specified in abstract including organisational element and linkages among them (public actors: like universities, research institutions, skills-development agencies, technology-transfer agencies, science park and incubators, public funding entities, patent offices, etc., and private actors: firms, venture capital organisations, banks, consultants, legal consultants, etc.). Cooke et al. (1997) further hypothesise that there are weak/intense, regular or irregular interactions which shape the system; so we can draw many potential empirically-founded typologies of systems.

Please cite this article in press as: Belussi, F., et al., Learning at the boundaries in an “Open Regional Innovation System”: A focus on firms’ innovation strategies in the Emilia Romagna life science industry. Res. Policy (2010), doi:10.1016/j.respol.2010.01.014

1998. thanks to the advantages of spatial proximity. Many studies have tackled this issue referring to the role of multinational corporations (Zander. 2. led the region. 2003. which postulates the effectiveness of vertically integrated R&D departments. Doloreux. the structure of some high-tech industries seems to conceal globalisation and regionalisation through a small world pattern of connections: some local firms – often the leading enterprises – play the role of “knowledge gatekeepers” (Owen-Smith and Powell.4 Using primary data collected at the firm level. fostered by direct and indirect linkages. This model is characterised by the firms’ adoption of an open innovation strategy. Iammarino. since they are encapsulated in national and supra-national innovation systems. focusing on the firms’ willingness to overcome both the organisational boundaries. 2007. and an appropriate administrative framework for supporting innovative enterprise. and theories of regionalisation and clustering. In particular. 2002). which conceptualise innovation as the result of complex. technology mediating organisations.01. Belussi and Sedita. which includes the companies. According to the RIS approach. Belussi et al. Maskell and Malmberg. which dominated most of the 20th century. 2005). / Research Policy xxx (2010) xxx–xxx scale seems quite a difficult task. which emphasise that economic growth and innovation do not take place in abstract spaces. 2002. the region has developed a collective identity and rules of the game which have resulted in “the Emilian model” being exported worldwide. 481”. RISs should not be understood as internally homogeneous systems since they can encompass – and usually do – several industries. the autochthonous emergence of industrial districts. it presents some descriptive analyses on the innovation sources (internal and external) used for innovation and it applies the social network analysis to map the geographical distribution of R&D linkages. while contemporary reflections deal with the issue of the internationalisation of national innovation systems (Carlsson. Chesbrough claims that also modern technology 5 For a definition see Cooke (2005). other recent research approaches have contributed to affirm a new model of open innovation that overcomes the single firms’ boundaries. nomic actors and institutions. Assuming the complex theorising about the nature. 1998.. while Section 5 contains an econometric analysis. these two sub-systems are expected to share strong interactions sustaining a continuous and virtuous process of knowledge generation. Actually. in partnership with banks and other organisations. The influence of the RIS has grown rapidly since the middle of the 1990s (Asheim et al. which search for and absorb non-local knowledge. According to Chesbrough (2003).. The increasing importance recognised to external sources of knowledge and innovation is threatening the closed model. application and exploitation. 2004). universities and other educational organisations. In doing so. suppliers and competitors. Section 4 gives descriptive results. The undergoing hypothesis is that in fashion-led or engineering-based industry – characterised by the presence of practical knowledge – the development of a competitive regional system is the result of a pre-existing industrial cluster (Belussi. Storper. interaction with local institutions. Section 6 proposes some concluding remarks and hints for further research. The RIS approach draws on the view that innovative dynamics are not held within organisational borders or single firms’ research units. 2006). which overcomes not only the boundaries of the firms but also the boundaries of the region. 2004) and innovation processes also in many SMEs (Asheim and Isaksen. 2009). 1997. Porter. 1991.. The notion of RIS lies on the crossroads of two main bodies of literature: evolutionary theories of economic and technical change. but are locally rooted. of Pages 12 ARTICLE IN PRESS F. non-linear social processes. p. Learning at the boundaries in an “Open Regional Innovation System”: A focus on firms’ innovation strategies in the Emilia Romagna life science industry. et al. and the regional boundaries. stimulated and nurtured by several actors and factors within and outside the firm (Edquist. 1997. 1999). RIS and open innovation models RIS is one of the most influential concepts developed in the context of regional science studies. testing the impact of internal and external (regional and global) innovation sources on firms’ patenting activity. being “compressed” between the existence of overlapping multiple scales and spatial flows. the old closed innovation model. and the institutional sub-system. Howells. others reflect upon the local-global connections (Bathelt et al. more recent studies have underlined the crucial role of accessing knowledge and innovation from the outside (Bathelt et al. Policy (2010).. Please cite this article in press as: Belussi. Chesbrough (2003) observed that organisations increasingly resort to open innovation strategies to augment the variety and speed of knowledge flows essential to innovation. 1999. Section 3 describes the method and data used in the analysis. In high-performing regions. their clients.. Theoretical background and empirical context 2. and transmit it to other actors within the RIS.respol..014 .. Gertler and Levitte. The study then offers some indications on the effect of innovation openness. While the traditional RIS approach has above all emphasised the importance of local sources of innovation. and impact of the innovation systems. 2003). Similarly to RIS. 2005). 1998. 2 No. 2002.1016/j. is becoming obsolete today. In particular. 1998. 2004. 2005). Our empirical analysis is grounded on the study of 78 life science firms in Emilia Romagna. which has grown rapidly since the middle of the 1990s (Braczyk et al. as regards the evolution of RISs. which consists of various institutions that are engaged in the production and diffusion of knowledge and skills such as public research organisations (PROs). to support localised innovation centres in promoting systemic interactions around the use of new technologies in traditional industries. evolution. (1997). through long distance research collaborations. through field interviews. In fact. Res. The paper applies quantitative research methodologies. Cooke. The industry sub-system. The paper proceeds as follows: Section 2 focuses on the theoretical and empirical background and introduces the research issues and objectives. 2004). which was described as a RIS. through the use of external sources of innovation. Cantwell and Iammarino. RISs can also have various linkages with external actors and the importance of these external ties has been increasingly recognised as crucial in accelerating technological change (Coenen et al. aimed to develop technology in-house for their sole use. Braczyk et al. 2002). clusters and/or industrial districts. De la Mothe and Paquet. and knowledge spillovers (Camagni. regions. As pointed out by Tödtling and Trippl (2005).G Model RESPOL-2410. 2006). Further. RISs should not be conceived as isolated entities. diffusion. while in science-based industry – where the role of scientific/analytical knowledge5 is extremely important – the presence of leading research institutions (and research funds) represents the sine-qua-non precondition (Asheim and Coenen. social embeddedness. F. Cooke et al. 1999. recent analyses have elucidated the complex relationship that exists between the building of a coherent innovation system and the evolution of innovative local clusters.1. this paper investigates the existence and the performance of an Open Regional Innovation System (ORIS model). doi:10.2010. cooperation and synergies among local eco- 4 In Cooke et al. “in the Emilia Romagna. the study explores in detail innovation openness in the life science RIS. are meaningful loci of innovation.. Autio (1998) illustrates RIS as composed by two interdependent sub-systems embedded in a common regional socioeconomic and cultural setting. Boschma and ter Wal. especially when they have developed industrial clusters.. characterised by collaborative and competitive business practices and financed by local banks.

Recent studies on modularity and system integration (Brusoni and Prencipe. Niosi. the largest firms spread around the world their R&D laboratories around new poles of excellence (Chiesa. 2.) systematically encouraging and exploring a wide range of internal and external sources of innovation opportunities.. 1995).1016/j. which clearly are not able to afford large investments in R&D. These arguments all together tend to support the motion for an open innovation model. 2005) discusses in detail the relationship between the division of cognitive labour and organisational structures. interactions with customers and end users. and the absorbing activity of external knowledge from outside appears equally fundamental (Cohen and Levinthal.. and broadly exploiting those opportunities through multiple channels” (West and Gallagher. On the other hand. and the ability to recombine different. becoming the quintessence of a new model of firm (Antonelli. not just in in-house R&D. 1992. The emergence of a complex network of cooperation. customers. life science firms’ strategy is planned within closed systems. distant. technological spillovers appear to be extremely frequent. 1994).. Not all of the useful knowledge for the innovative activity of the enterprises originates “inside” the firm. and let their own innovations enter the wider marketplace. to provide a rationale for the new technological trajectory with strengthened links between the agrochemical and pharmaceutical divisions of multinational chemical companies (Tait et al. or to the firm itself (because it lacks the required capabilities). 1986). Innovation trajectories in the life science industry The life science concept emerged in the mid-1980s along with a novel emphasis on biotechnology.014 .2010. Dasgupta and David. biotech. sources of knowledge militate in this direction (Penner-Hahn and Shaver. 1999.. providing significant insights on the role of innovative assemblers. The innovative activities introduced are therefore strongly tied to the public research (R&D projects on basic research) developed within the scientific institutions.2. Belussi et al. Wernerfelt. These industries have witnessed the wide spread diffusion of distributed forms of innovation driven by the necessity to integrate specialised and complementary knowledge (Coombs and Metcalfe.. in a network perspective. 2000). in global international networks of enterprises (Owen-Smith and Powell. which is rooted in the capability to enrich the firm knowledge with a network of interactions including external partners (suppliers. at the same time. doi:10. Policy (2010). Giuliani. Complementary production abilities. Consequently the number of innovation sources for the creation of new processes and productive inputs increases. reverse engineering techniques. West and Gallagher define open innovation as “(. 1984). the necessity of acquiring complementary knowledge. or again. 1990). sub-contractors. have dropped the “do-it-allyourself” approach. This happens in all life science clusters (or technological districts) like in the area of Please cite this article in press as: Belussi. consultants. 2002). in order to protect their “dedicated technological knowledge” (tacit or codified). 1999. Following Chesbrough (2003). tends to stretch them towards a more open model. consciously integrating that exploration with firm capabilities and resources. pharmaceutics and computer science applied to the medical fields). thanks to the increasing adoption of international-shared languages and ICT infrastructures (Castells. Kogut and Zander. Lorenzoni and Lipparini. favouring economies of variety. the latter being considered repositories of architectural knowledge (Henderson and Clark. . because “The process of innovation is becoming more distributed across firm boundaries” (Coombs and Metcalfe. However. opportunity (very high).respol. In this field the importance of non-profit. characterised by their participation in inventive and innovative activity on an international scale (Baum et al. 2002. small firms. Winter. 1990).. 2005). codified technical knowledge or know-how (university R&D.. F. 1989. 1959. 2006: 82). Today. and give rise to a cumulative process of acquisition of knowledge and competences. and enhancing the heterogeneity of firms. life science firms’ innovation strategy develops within open models. Successful firms are those which invest in “strategic resources”. and differentiated knowledge base (with the shift from the chemical paradigm to the bio-molecular technology). technological interdependences. Crossing the boundaries of the firm and cooperating with external actors (research labs or institutions) is an opportunity to multiply the learning occasions. 2000). 2009). Science-based firms produce and absorb knowledge in a continuous game of interactions that generate a hybridisation of the possessed knowledge. 2007). 1997. A crucial element for accumulating strategic resources is to develop numerous channels to absorb information (meetings. The growth of biotech gave rise to a novel technological regime with specific characteristics of appropriability (very high). In the closed innovation model. 1994).. research and market institutes). In life science firms. are at a disadvantage. Hobday et al. building intangible reservoirs for creative activity of invention and innovation (Arora and Gambardella. 1987).). 2000. 2005) have pointed out that increasing modularisation of complex products has favoured firms’ R&D disintegration and knowledge specialisation although raising the need and complexity of interorganisational coordination. However. 2000). 1999. 1987) and patenting activity (Foray and Hargreaves. but they have to build fruitful relationships with other organisations. . and pioneered a new model of open innovation. Knowledge flows are easier. 1990). of Pages 12 ARTICLE IN PRESS F. Relational and coordination capabilities of firms and research labs allow the establishment of a positive spiral of learning at the boundaries (Belussi et al. strategic alliances with knowledgeable suppliers. represents one of the main components of the innovative activity of the enterprises. Res. which appear to be the crucial variable to look at when determining the degree of innovativeness (Boari and Lipparini. then. and collectively shared (Arrow. Nelson. They take place both inside the relationship between firms and public research centres. Learning at the boundaries in an “Open Regional Innovation System”: A focus on firms’ innovation strategies in the Emilia Romagna life science industry.. participation in international fairs). On the one hand.01. 1994. Nelson and Levin. etc. 2004). The life science field shares a strong interface with research activities placed on the frontier of scientific knowledge discovery. but equally necessary. They are a crucial source of public knowledge and they contribute to the sponsoring of the most promising firms’ projects (Cooke. et al. Science-based firms protect their capability (Penrose. 2003). Lipparini and Sobrero. 1992) and proprietary knowledge especially through the maintenance of the industrial secret (Levin et al. like Cisco and Microsoft. The literature on system integrators (Hobday et al. The organisation of R&D activities in the high-tech sectors of life science firms (biomedical. in which companies import ideas from outside. typically based on the exploitation of scientific knowledge. 2001. or in localised networks of enterprises. 1987. and service firms (Teece et al. mostly in knowledge intensive sectors (Baba et al. 2008).. in order to guarantee the progress of the research projects. life science firms show a systematic access to external knowledge sources. / Research Policy xxx (2010) xxx–xxx 3 powerhouses. 2002: 263). External sources represent a form of “learning at the boundaries”.G Model RESPOL-2410. as Richardson pointed out long ago (1972: 888) is explained by the need to combine closely complementary but dissimilar activities (from R&D to marketing) that in certain circumstances cannot be allocated either straightforwardly to the market (because of the existing complementarities with firm assets). public and semi-public research institutions is significant. cumulativeness (very low at the beginning). Firm size in the emergent open innovation model is no more an obstacle or unique driver to increase innovative productivity (Belussi and Gottardi. These types of firms cannot be innovative only counting on internal knowledge. No. but in effective relations with suppliers.

two intertwined phenomena are modifying the traditional model of innovation: (i) the increasing relevance of external to the firm knowledge sources. in the realm of biotech in food processing. and variety of external sources used for innovation search. Whereas the first phenomenon is perfectly consistent with the traditional RIS model – typically based on the view of innovation as an interactive process – the second phenomenon implies the evolution towards a new model of open RIS (ORIS). In order to do so. and especially in the life sciences. doi:10. 1988). performance and growth. 1993) and the triple-helix model (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff. Spatial proximity should enable the transfer of tacit knowledge and facilitate the exploitation of knowledge spillovers (Malmberg and Maskell. The former argument is based on the idea that the complexity of the innovation process requires direct contacts between partners for the success of research collaborations (Pisano et al. the association of small firms belonging to the biomedical district of Modena. useful to capture the geographical scale of the inter-organisational division of innovative tasks in the life science RIS. represents another way to underline the cooperative nature of inter-organisational relations. interviews with regional experts and queries of firm associations’ archives. Res. Please cite this article in press as: Belussi.G Model RESPOL-2410.. 2003). 2002). end users.01. the RIS fits what we have here called the ORIS model. This analytical framework is designed to provide a comprehensive and bottom-up understanding of the existence of the ORIS model. (1993) found evidence that knowledge spillovers are geographically localised.2010. in France (Longhi. number of external research collaborations.. Belussi et al. of Pages 12 ARTICLE IN PRESS F.. universities and other public and private research institutions. or in the life science scientific parks.014 . Our research work started with the inspection of the Cerved archive. even if the latter are little developed in the Emilia Romagna region and in Italy at large. venture capitalists. where the dependent variable is innovative performance (measured as the number of patents registered in the period 2000–2004). With respect to the spatial distribution of partners. (2) pharmaceutical and biotech firms. 2001. When local firms are strongly oriented towards the use of a breadth search strategy. / Research Policy xxx (2010) xxx–xxx Cambridge and Oxford in the UK. European or extra-European)? (iii) Effectiveness of open innovation model: Is the open innovation model more effective than the closed one in terms of patenting activity? Which is the impact of internal sources (R&D efforts) and external sources (variety of external channels and number of research ties) on firms’ innovativeness? The first two issues aim to assess the openness of the life science RIS (towards an ORIS model). The dominant mode of innovation here is largely influenced by the firms’ capability of learning at the boundaries. pharmaceutics and computer science industry applied to the medical fields. The third research question is concerned with testing the effectiveness of the open innovation model. Policy (2010). On the basis of this consideration. the study examines which are the external channels more frequently activated by the interviewed firms.3. biotechnology. the literature on innovation systems (Cooke. the objective of the present paper is to examine the empirical existence and the performance of the ORIS model in the Emilia Romagna life science industry. which includes all the registered firms – not only legally founded but also operative. innovation requires knowledge that is both “global best” and “diverse” (Dahlander and McKelvey. and firms’ sub-sector. while others emphasise the importance of research links with geographically distant partners in order to get access to global circuits of knowledge creation and diffusion. 1992. and the importance they attribute to each source for innovation. an existing database provided by the Italian Chamber of Commerce. 3. cultivating multiple channels for innovation (both institutional and market-based) and are engaged not only in local research collaborations. many theoretical and empirical studies have focused on the type and location of external partners (Dahlander and McKelvey.. some authors suggest that external research collaborations should be more frequent and effective among co-located partners. including all firms active in the knowledge areas of the modern life science industry. which produce medical appliances and disposables for diagnosis and therapeutic aims. et al. which is explained by R&D expenditure. but also in extraregional ones. 2005. The degree of decomposability of complex problems. This concept has been further applied by Valentin and Jensen (2003). 2001). Several data sources were used to build a systematic database of the population of firms involved in the Emilia Romagna life science sector. Jaffe et al. data source. (3) information science firms that have developed specific medical applications. With respect to type of partners. such as size. 2005). 6 An extended work related to our empirical survey is published in Belussi (2005). We identified three productive segments: (1) biomedical firms. We updated and completed this archive using information gathered through other sources: websites inspection. Research issues and objectives The theoretical overview presented above underlines that in many sectors. Therefore. like Sophia Antipolis. The geography of spillovers has been also analysed in the context of patent citation. 4 No. 2.respol. our study does not focus only on dedicated biotech enterprises. and sampling procedure The empirical context of this study is the life science industry in Emilia Romagna. Nelson. The model also includes a number of control variables. which foster the adoption of a new open/distributed innovation model and (ii) the need of exploiting the advantages of local knowledge spillovers while getting access to non-local sources of knowledge and information. The statistical test presented in the study is a negative binomial regression. Comparing the geographical location of patent citations with that of the cited patents. in high-tech industries. In order to do so. Maskell. 2005. age. the study applies multivariate analysis to test the impact of internal sources (R&D investments) and external sources (variety of external channels and number of research ties) on firms’ innovativeness. In order to investigate the role of research collaborations on firm innovativeness. 1997) have both stressed the fundamental role in boosting innovativeness of close interactions among heterogeneous actors such as large firms and SMEs. claiming that.1016/j. McKelvey et al. or in Boston and Minneapolis in the US. F. Empirical setting. like Consobiomed. In opposition with this view. Lundvall. Learning at the boundaries in an “Open Regional Innovation System”: A focus on firms’ innovation strategies in the Emilia Romagna life science industry.6 Our definition of the sector includes the following specialisations: biomedical. mainly in the field of distance telemedicine. the latter theoretical perspective sustained the importance of global sources of external knowledge. The study also provides a descriptive analysis of research collaborations. introduced by Simon. In order to do so the study focuses on three research questions: (i) External sources of innovation: To what extent do firms within the RIS rely on external innovation sources? What are the most important sources according to firms’ evaluation? (ii) Geographical scale of innovation relationships: Do firms prefer to engage in collaborative research relationships with proximate partners (within the RIS) or external ones (national.

Finale Emiliano.62 56. This result is consistent with the Innovation Systems approach.2010. with an average score of 8.27 28. centred in the province of Modena. and 78 firms entered the sample. F.74 36.34 20. Overall.85 12. firms were asked to indicate which external sources they use for their innovation activities. Concordia.92 3. like Camposanto. The biomedical district of Modena counts about 80 firms and 5000 employees.0 Sampled firms Firms N 5 11 28 21 3 10 78 % 6. The main sectors are. the Emilia Romagna life science sector appears quite significant – more than 500 firms and about 11.73 2.469 % 0. and semi-public).535 892 680 165 169 4. Learning at the boundaries in an “Open Regional Innovation System”: A focus on firms’ innovation strategies in the Emilia Romagna life science industry.00 Employees N 31 3.53 100. This result clearly indicates the strategic importance of keeping pace with scientific discoveries for firms operating in the life science sector. products. The other most frequently used sources are the semi-public ones. From a spatial point of view.014 . Prospero. external R&D cooperation. Descriptive results 4. Interviews were mainly organised with the entrepreneur. The important role played by semi-public sources can be explained by taking into account their relative greater accessibility and lower cost compared to the other external sources of knowledge or information. Overall.8% of the firms.65 1. The number of firms relying on direct interactions with PROs (institutional sources) is also quite relevant.42 16.917 1. markets. Indeed. Belussi et al.01.947 4. Res.13 2. and a mosaic of niches of dispersed producers. doi:10. The utilisation of multiple sources to collect data allowed us to reduce the risk of the variables used for descriptive and multivariate analyses being affected by single-source bias. which emphasises the importance of interactions among actors in the industry subsystem as crucial driver of innovation. Interview data on the number of employees. because they are not firms endowed with innovation and technological capabilities. this percentage rises up to 24% for regional universities. localised between Lund and Copenhagen with 1000 firms and 34. The interview questionnaire contained a list of 16 possible sources (see Table 2). recent growth trend. S. 7 See Appendix A for a short description of the sub-sectors of activity of the enterprises inserted in the sample. the regional life science system is composed of a clear-cut industrial district. firm sales. the most relevant source according to firms’ evaluation. the interviewed enterprises are mainly concentrated in the province of Modena (42 cases corresponding to 53. in absolute terms. Medolla. S. From a spatial point of view. receiving an average score of 8. the biomedical segment has been divided into four subareas of specialisation: (i) diagnostics.10 35. 65% of respondents gathered some information useful for innovation activities from their clients.306 1. Among all the market sources. (iii) disposable. Manufacturing firms of the Emilia Romagna life science sector Diagnostic Therapy and rehabilitation Disposables Other appliances Pharmaceutical and biotech Computer science applied to medicine Total 12 106 157 211 14 13 513 Our elaboration on Cerved data. Possidonio and S. especially with regards to close relationships with customers and end users.respol..97 15. and 84% of the employees). our findings indicate that firms use on average about 5 external knowledge sources out of the total of 16.1016/j. of Pages 12 ARTICLE IN PRESS F. / Research Policy xxx (2010) xxx–xxx 5 Revised Cerved population Firms N % 2.66 30.643 % 0.41 14. and the relationships with the regional supporting institutions.264 169 11. patents. respectively.78 100.90 26.48 16.19. institutional-based. (ii) therapeutics (complex machinery).57. therapeutic and rehabilitation. grouped together under three different headings (market-based.45 100. although with some degree of variation within the category (which includes not mutually exclusive options). No.82 100. The most frequently used source is “clients and customers” (or “end users”). “clients and customers” is also considered the most relevant. mainly localised along the Modena–Bologna axis. which are – in order – the Internet (56%).69 3. owner of the firm. Alberto Corazza and Tito Casali) directed by Fiorenza Belussi. R&D investments. other appliances. Please cite this article in press as: Belussi.. Felice.73 19. innovation capability.00 Employees N 28 2. while it decreases to only 9% for the National Research Council (CNR). Indeed.9 22 firms are based in Bologna.1. Mirandola. It is interesting to notice that scientific publication (a form of indirect interaction with PROs) is.60 41. European Patent Office).0 Table 1 Sectoral classification of life science firms: universe and sample of firms. Interviews lasted 1–2 h and were focused on the history of the firm. and (iv) other electro-medical or nontherapeutic machinery (other apparatus and appliances).8 We assigned the sampled firms to each subsector using the information obtained directly during the interview. Massimo Gastaldon. and evaluate the importance of each source on a scale from 1 to 10. and number of international patents registered by the firms were controlled through the inspection of firms’ web sites and on-line official sources (Chamber of Commerce. In turn. where the only Italian biomedical industrial district is located. website and interviews with sector experts. 9 The district enterprises are located in a small bunch of municipalities which show high spatial contiguity.600 employees (data refer to all productive and commercial firms). 8 During the sampling procedure we excluded firms involved only in assistance services. These sources are generally ranked as highly important. receiving the highest average score in the list (9. 4. or with the manager delegated to deal with innovation activities.20). A simple random sampling technique was applied.21 3. which is typically more dependent on the exploitation of scientific knowledge in comparison to other industries. while the others are dispersed within the region. number of competitors. pharmaceutical and biotech. scientific publications (51%) and fairs and exhibition (47%).G Model RESPOL-2410. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in the period March–September 2005 by a group of four researchers (Alessia Sammarra. Innovative search strategy In order to assess the degree of openness of firms’ search strategy. where there are also numerous regional clinical institutions and universities (important university centres and medical clinics are also in the nearby cities of Ferrara and Parma). quite a small cluster if compared with the Medicon Valley. Policy (2010).7 Table 1 provides the distribution of firms and employees for the population of life science firms identified.000 employees. et al. Cavezzo. or using the Cerved archive (which describes the sector of activity in some dedicated records).

6 No. Indeed. F. Type Market-based External R&D labs Regional firms imitation National firms imitation Foreign firms imitation Research agreements with other firms Clients and customers Suppliers of intermediary goods Patent acquisitions Distribution network Average – Market sources 23 9 10 17 8 51 15 8 27 18. Fig. we investigated in further detail the role played by this particular external source of knowledge and information for innovation. Type of relation Occurrence Yes Total external relationships of which: Firm-to-firm relations Firm-to-PRO relations Our survey. A very small percentage of respondents (10%) draw on this external source. absolute value (row percentage in brackets).2 65. out of the 78 respondents. This finding indicates a clear divide between firm-to-PRO and firm-to-firm research collaborations.5 19. only 10% of the sampled firms have established research collaborations with other enterprises.87 7. Table 3 Occurrence of external research collaborations within the 78 sampled firms and total number of ties.19 6.4 56. relationships have a marginal diffusion. / Research Policy xxx (2010) xxx–xxx Knowledge source Occurrence N % 29. Table 4 shows some interesting variations across the two sets of relationships analysed. 2002). 1 illustrates the research network established by the respondent firms with regional. This finding is further confirmed by the descriptive analysis of the occurrence of research collaborations presented in the following section. while the results obtained by Dahlander and McKelvey are based on a broader set of inter-organisational relations. since it indicates a lower number of firm-to-firm relationships than could be expected.89. year 2004 (N = 78).29 8. with an average score of 4. 45 have established external ties.09 8.20 7.G Model RESPOL-2410.2 22. national and foreign partners. The role of external research collaborations Given the relevance of research collaborations in the modern life science industry.82 8.3 51. which include also marketing and distribution alliances. of Pages 12 ARTICLE IN PRESS F. quite an interesting result concerns the use for innovation activities of research agreements with other firms. the authors found that 43% of the firms were involved in firm-to-firm relations. 4. Overall. followed by national (29%) and extra-European (18%).78 7 24 23 15 17.1016/j. Belussi et al.33 Institutional CNR (National Research Centre) R&D Regional Universities R&D National Universities R&D Foreign Universities Average – Institutional sources Semi-public Fairs..0 30. In terms of the spatial distribution of research collaborations.35 4.6 24. the latter being a concern of a small minority of firms in our sample.2010. Specifically. Indeed.. et al. whose main peculiarity resides in the prominent role of PROs in R&D collaborations. Following Dahlander and McKelvey (2005).25 37 44 40 40. 45 (58%) 8 (10%) 44 (56%) No 33 (42%) 70 (90%) 34 (44%) Total 78 (100%) 78 (100%) 78 (100%) 170 17 153 Total number of ties Finally.80 Table 2 Sources of information and knowledge for innovation activities.74 6.25 9.22 5.8 29. our analysis shows that firms in the Emilia Romagna life science RIS are much more strongly linked to public research organisations. respondents were asked to list the number of research collaborations they have established with other firms and PROs in the period 2000–2004 and to indicate the geographical location of each partner. This result is quite remarkable. in terms of occurrence. Learning at the boundaries in an “Open Regional Innovation System”: A focus on firms’ innovation strategies in the Emilia Romagna life science industry. Further.4 19.respol. our results may testify a specific form of distributed innovation in the Emilia Romagna life science RIS. reaching a total number of 170 collaborations.95 7.89 8.25 8.2 34. compared to the typical biotech model. Indeed. doi:10. while collaborations with Please cite this article in press as: Belussi.014 .47 7.91 5. exhibitions Internet Scientific publications Average – Other sources Elaboration from our survey.4 51.12 47.. One possible reason for the difference may lie in the fact that we focused exclusively on research collaborations. Table 3 clearly indicates that firm-to-firm 10 The software used to analyse relational date is Ucinet 6 (Borgatti et al. Indeed. The low frequency of firm-to-firm relationships in the Emilia Romagna sample appears quite striking also with respect to the empirical findings reported by Dahlander and McKelvey (2005) for the Gothenburg population of biotech enterprises. Firm-to-firm collaborations occur primarily with European enterprises (41% of the ties). being only 17 out of the 170 total collaborations. reaching a total number of 153 ties. which is also considered not very relevant.10 Table 3 shows that 58% of firms in the sample are involved in external research collaborations. Res.8 21.01. measured through formal arrangements. Policy (2010). in terms of occurrence.00 9.2 10. we gathered relational data on the occurrence and spatial distribution of research collaborations among the sampled firms.70 Importance (score: 1–10) Mean 7.13 8. given the emphasis assigned by the literature on this type of collaborations in the life science industry.8 10.2.5 11.5 12.57 7.40 6. 56% have established collaborative relationships with research organisations.

The analysis of the spatial distribution of collaborations with PROs offers a quite different picture. suggesting that innovativeness is positively correlated with the firm’s capacity to be engaged in multiple external relationships.2010. enterprises localised in the Emilia Romagna region are the least frequent (12% of the whole ties). The research network within and across the RIS boundaries.G Model RESPOL-2410. 5. and another half with trans-regional PROs.1016/j.05 level (two-tailed) with the number of patents owned by the firm. N PATENTS measures Table 4 Spatial distribution of the overall relations of the 78 sampled firms. when geographical location is taken into account.1. and (c) the capabilities of building innovative networks.respol. et al. Measures Since we are interested in the evaluation of the determinants of firms’ innovative capabilities. Econometric analysis The econometric analysis presented here investigates the role and relevance for firms’ innovativeness of the various components of the open innovation strategy that are respectively: (a) the internal innovative efforts (R&D investments). Powell et al. Stuart and Podolny. Overall. Firms in the sample establish half of their external ties with regional PROs.014 . / Research Policy xxx (2010) xxx–xxx 7 Fig. Finally. 1999. The total number of external research relations shows a significant correlation at the 0. Learning at the boundaries in an “Open Regional Innovation System”: A focus on firms’ innovation strategies in the Emilia Romagna life science industry. they also reveal that distant research collaborations with PROs heavily characterise the firms’ behaviour. absolute value (row percentage in brackets). Several studies have provided empirical evidence on the positive correlation between collaborative ties and company performance measures (Ahuja. both firm-to-firm and firm-to-PROs relationships are significant and positively correlated with firms’ innovativeness.. 1. 2 (12%) 76 (50%) 78 (46%) 5 (29%) 48 (31%) 53 (31%) 7 (41%) 24 (16%) 31 (18%) Extra-EU 3 (18%) 5 (3%) 8 (5%) 17 (100%) 153 (100%) 170 (100%) All Please cite this article in press as: Belussi. despite indicating that geographical location matters.. The majority of these ties are national (31%). Policy (2010). No. local firms have shown a lower propensity or capability to establish transnational research collaborations (23%). 2000. only the relationships established with foreign partners appears significant and positively related to the firm’s patenting activity. 5. 1999). The statistical method applied is a negative binomial regression. measured as the number of patents registered in the period 2000–2004. because. In terms of type of actors involved. of Pages 12 ARTICLE IN PRESS F. Our data partially align with Dahlander and McKelvey (2005). Type of relation Spatial distribution Regional National (Italy) Foreign EU Firm-to-firm relations Firm-to-PRO relations All Our survey. Res. supporting the shift towards an ORIS model. our results show that firms in the Emilia Romagna life science sector establish the largest part of their research collaborations with PROs localised outside the region. Belussi et al.. our dependent variable (N PATENTS) is a measure of the firms’ patenting activity. We conducted a correlation analysis between research collaborations with both PROs and firms and companies’ innovativeness. and what is most relevant for the present study. (b) the external sources of knowledge used for innovation and.01. last but not least. doi:10. F. The variables entered in the model and the regression results are described in the following sections.

In particular.261* . year of analysis: 2004. The size of the firm varies from 1 to 800 employees. the mean value being 290.G Model RESPOL-2410. Belussi et al. without considering any lagged effect (Hall et al.. of Pages 12 ARTICLE IN PRESS F.341** . this variable is usually used to capture two intertwined although distinct phenomena. * p < . that is N >50 + m. On the other hand. year of analysis: 2004. pharmaceutical and biotech.700. Therefore. that patents are a fairly good indicator of the inventive output of a firm’s research department and a measure of the “output” or “success” of R&D (Bound et al.01. since we do not want to infer heavily on the generalisability of the results to the population.346** .18 4... nevertheless. RD EXP (log) 5.. Res.014 . which are listed and briefly described in Table 5.46 12.04 Std.109 . N REL 3. N SOURCE and N REL. . we can notice the significant and positive correlation between the dependent variable (N PATENTS) and the selected explanatory variables (N REL. SIZE (log) 6. 2. Data were gathered from the European Patent Office Database and field interviews. 1984).000 D . where m is the number of predictors (Harris. 1982. 8 Table 5 Variables description. Learning at the boundaries in an “Open Regional Innovation System”: A focus on firms’ innovation strategies in the Emilia Romagna life science industry.434*** . 4.29 employees. the breadth of innovation search (in terms of number of sources for innovation) and the intensity of networking activities (as number of external research collaborations). 4. F. we adopted the simplest rule of thumb for determining the minimum number of subjects required to conduct multiple regression analyses. 5. ** p < . In addition to the three explanatory variables discussed above. to avoid the risk of not considering the patents not signed by the firm. As a preliminary comment. disposables. Please cite this article in press as: Belussi. N SOURCE 4. controlling for size.270* .21 3. This indicator corresponds to the total number of external collaborative relationships established for research purposes with both firms and PROs within and across the RIS boundaries. The variable N REL is a proxy which measures the intensity of firms’ networking activity for research purposes. 2006). In this view.67 7. information science applied to medicine – i = 1.12 6.2010. N PATENTS 2.68 2.437 D . AGE N 78 78 78 78 78 78 Mean 2.096 . we used the number of employees (expressed in logarithms) as the measure of size (SIZE). and assumed. we can claim that the patent activity is positively related to the main components of an open innovation model: the internal efforts – absorptive capacity (in terms of R&D expenditure). The external sources listed in the questionnaire were not mutually exclusive.05. the amount of internal R&D investments is considered as a proxy to measure firms’ internal innovation effort. the mean value being 57.88 16. other appliances. It is a proxy of the firms’ propensity to invest in research activities through the establishment of interorganisational networks. and we are working in the field of the social science. The regression model includes three explanatory variables.respol.277* .. Variable 1. 4. N SOURCE. 3. The first variable (RD EXP) measures the amount of investments in R&D allocated by the firm during the year 2004.01.309* . 5. it is used as an indicator of the firm’s absorptive capacity (Cohen and Levinthal.20 Min 0 0 0 0 0 1 Max 22 19 16 15. age and sub-sector. therapy and rehabilitation.03 1. Role Explanatory variables Phenomenon No. 12 We are aware of the limitation given by the sample size on the regression analysis estimation (Green. the number of patents owned by the single firm in the sample. † p < . This indicator is used to assess the impact of research relationships on the firm’s capability to produce innovations.001. but by the individual researcher regularly employed by the firm.1016/j. . This indicator is calculated from the list of 16 external sources reported in Table 3. 1991).30 3. 1986).213† .008 . which varies from 0 if none of the sources is used to 16 if all knowledge sources are used by the respondent firm. 1989). to measure external innovation efforts. We used two variables. In the innovation literature.11 Earlier studies have suggested. this indicator reflects the firm’s external search breadth. 6) Number of patents owned by the firm Internal innovation effort – absorptive capacity Openness of firm’s innovation strategy Control variables SIZE AGE SECi Dependent variables Innovative capacity N PATENTS Table 6 Descriptive statistics. 3.25 6. 1 = used) and then added up to create the proxy variable N SOURCE. we included three variables to take into account the structural dimension of the firms in the sample. Hausman et al. although they have only been able to prove a simultaneous effect of R&D on patents. Dev. *** p < .344** Note: The R&D expenditure varies from 0 to 3.273* . On the one hand. et al.10 2. doi:10.12 Table 6 provides descriptive statistics and simple correlations for our variables. Specifically.508*** . N SOURCE is a proxy variable similar to the one used by Laursen and Salter (2004.374** 2. Policy (2010). RD EXP).10. which indicates the number of different external sources of knowledge and information normally used by the firm for innovation activities. They have been coded as binary variables (0 = not used. Specifically.68 73 1. 1975). / Research Policy xxx (2010) xxx–xxx Variable RD EXP N SOURCE N REL Description R&D expenditure – log External search breadth (number of external sources used for innovation activities) Research networking (number of collaborations established with PROs and firms for research purposes) Firm size (number of employees – log) Firm age Sectoral dummies (diagnostic. doing R&D internally should increase firms’ ability to integrate internally the knowledge gathered from the outside with the prior knowledge base. and five sub-sector dummies (SECi) to control for different propensities to produce innovations across the life science sub-sectors identified. 11 We decided to integrate the information derived from the European Patent Office Database with the entrepreneurs’ declarations.

ranging from zero to many. 5. in terms of patenting activity. is associated with a 11% increase in the number of patents.799 56. Learning at the boundaries in an “Open Regional Innovation System”: A focus on firms’ innovation strategies in the Emilia Romagna life science industry. the interaction term is significant and negative. doi:10. SEC3 – Disposables SEC4 – Other appliances SEC5 – Pharm. . a doubling of the R&D investment would multiply the rate by exp (0. 6. As the complexity of the innovation strategy increases.251 . Similarly R&D investments significantly and positively affect the number of patents owned by the firm (a doubling of the R&D investment is associated with a 18% increase in the number of patents16 ).130 1. on the innovative firms’ performance. the individual positive effect of networks and R&D is mitigated. The negative binomial succeeds in accommodating this problem.11. Belussi et al.202 .441** 3.28). No. 15 Given the coefficient of 0. Std. the latter explaining how the impact on patents of the external relationships is dependent on the internal R&D.. suggesting the existence of an inverse U-shaped relationship. Please cite this article in press as: Belussi.245*** . p < . 1997. which is 1.2010. of Pages 12 ARTICLE IN PRESS F. rather than continuous.764** 3.280 Std.245 × log(2). a 10% increase in the number of external relationships would multiply the rate by exp (0.022† .717*** 3.337* −.respol.053* 2. a breadth innovation search. Conclusions The aim of this paper was to provide some empirical evidence on a new model of ‘open RIS’ (ORIS).970 p < . informing on the costs of the joint management of networks and internal R&D. firm analysis (dependent variable = N PATENTS).006 . together with the search breadth strategy and the interaction between R&D expenditure and networking activity.033 Model 2 Coeff. 14 Given the coefficient of 0. The innovation system approach describes innovation as a systemic and interactive process that crosses the firm’s boundaries to include several external sources of knowledge and information 13 The Poisson regression model assumes that the variance of the counts is equal to the mean. Zimmerman and Schwalbach. Here R&D expenditure and networking activities are taken into account. Licht and Zoz.40.023 .130 Table 7 Negative binomial regression. 1991.163 . not yet accounted for by the regressors that determine the individual mean function. p < . 16 Given the coefficient of 0. indicates that engaging in external research relationships has a positive and significant impact on the firm’s innovative output (a 10% increase in the number of relations is associated with a 40% increase in the number of patents15 ). Policy (2010). .14 The estimated model (2) tests exactly what we have called the open innovation model.867 . Statistical method and results Since the dependent variable (number of patents – N PATENTS) is a count of scores (nonnegative integers). which combines an investment in internal efforts – absorptive capacity (by means of R&D expenditure). as well as the breadth strategy does (a 10% increase in the number of sources is associated with a 14% increase in the number of patents). Interestingly. assessing the relative importance of internal R&D investments.014 .G Model RESPOL-2410. 1982.030** .010 . reveals the significant positive impact of R&D expenditures on the patenting activity of firms.014 .117*** . Err.757*** 78 −138.18.340** 2. F. which appears not to hold in our situation. of observations Log likelihood Chi-square McFadden’s R-square * ** *** † . To interpret the negative binomial regression estimated coefficients. showing a higher innovative capability of larger firms. The results of the models estimation are reported in Table 7. 1984. the number of relations seems to influence positively the innovative output in a non-linear way.001. Err. 1994).2. The negative binomial model is an extension of the standard Poisson model where the Poisson parameter for each firm has an additional random component. . in fact. RD EXP (log) N REL N REL (squared) N SOURCE RD REL AGE SIZE (log) SEC1 – Diagnostic SEC2 – Therapy and rehab. Moreover.10.337).128* −. / Research Policy xxx (2010) xxx–xxx 9 Model 1 Coeff.01.526 −6.876*** .337 for the number of external relationships. search activities and networking abilities.607 Benchmark −4. A doubling of the R&D investment. where we witness an overdispersion phenomenon. creating and maintaining networks could lead to knowledge leaking and thus diminish the returns on R&D investment efforts.852 1. The estimated model (1).117 1.013 . despite the costs of managing multiple innovative inputs. The empirical evidence presented focused on a representative sample of life science firms operating in the Emilia Romagna RIS. which shows the highest fitness (R-square of 0.13 This type of regression analysis is applied to deepen our understanding of open innovation models.011 .857 77..817** 2. which is 1. while the age of the firm seems not to be relevant.001 .050 . capturing 30% of the variability of the dependent variable. Hausman et al.053 . which is representative of the closed innovation model. The size of the firm is significant for the determination of the innovative output. We controlled also for the sub-sectors that the firms belong to. Res.823 1.145 for the R&D investment. is better performing.839 . et al.976*** 78 −110.011 .145 × log(2)).1016/j. a negative binomial model is applied as the means of estimation (Bound et al. 1998).145*** .. p < .05. we must take in account the logarithmic transformation of the dependent variable that is the count of patents (Liao. Crépon and Duguet. The model. which appear to influence the results. accounting for (unobserved) heterogeneity.420** .01.085*** 1. Model 2 estimation suggests that an open innovation strategy.896 . Besides. and biotech SEC6 – Informatics Constant No. a doubling of the R&D investment would multiply the rate by exp (0. and a networking activity.903 .239* 3.133 1..343*** 2.245 for the R&D investment. which is 1.

This result indicates a substitution effect between these two sources of innovation. Manufacturing enterprises in the life science field (production and commercialisation) Diagnostic Bio-image Clinical diagnosis Functional evaluation Therapy and rehabilitation Machinery for dialysis and respiration Artificial organs Rehabilitation and support Surgical therapy Orthopaedics and prostheses Other Non-durable materials Dental materials Firms hospital materials Other equipment Aesthetic and stimulators Dental equipment Hospital equipment Electro-medical equipment Various machinery Pharmaceutical and biotech firms Pharmaceutical enterprises Biotech enterprises Computer science enterprises applied to telemedicine Source: Our elaborations on 78 interviews. Still. as we can see in the following table. the propensity of establishing research collaborations outside the region is not confined to a small minority of leading enterprises. The analysis of R&D collaborations also offered some interesting indications on the form of distributed innovation in the Emilia Romagna life science ORIS. Appendix A.. innovation is not only a systemic and open process which crosses the firm’s boundaries but also a trans-local phenomenon which overcomes the regional border. These ties link local firms with national. While the present study examined RIS openness in one period.. our study provides new empirical evidence useful to challenge some taken-for-granted assumptions about the life science industry. and semi-public. This paper has some limitations that should be acknowledged. concerning the interaction between the openness to external search activities and the internal R&D investments. We also found that research collaborations contribute significantly to the determination of firms’ innovative output. 50 interviewed enterprises are exclusively productive. EU-7th Framework Programme. In order to explore this aspect. of Pages 12 ARTICLE IN PRESS F. Firms in the sample 5 5 11 4 1 1 1 2 2 28 1 27 21 3 3 12 3 3 2 1 10 Please cite this article in press as: Belussi.01. A similar effect was found in the study of Laursen and Salter (2006). The first one is connected to the choice of the specific empirical setting. internal R&D investment is significant.G Model RESPOL-2410. our analysis focused on the breadth of firms’ external search with respect to an ample list of possible external sources of knowledge and information. which is based on the sole use of internal R&D. We indeed found that firms in the Emilia Romagna life sciences are more likely to establish research collaborations with PROs than with other firms. our findings corroborates the argument made by Valentin and Jensen (2003): it is misleading to expect that all fields in the life sciences or in high-tech sectors in whatever country should emulate or reflect the typical biotech model of distributed innovation. distinguished in market-based. The authors explained this substitution effect as a manifestation of the “Not Invented Here” syndrome. In our sample. our study tested the effectiveness of the open innovation model. Res. is open to external-to-the-region research networks and knowledge sources. which showed a prominent role of PROs compared to other firms specialised in biotech research. The open innovation model better explains firms’ innovative performance compared to the closed one. suggesting a different form of inter-organisational division of innovative tasks compared to the typical biotech model. To what extent the Emilia Romagna life science ORIS can be elected as representative of a new model? Further empirical evidence from different contexts (in other countries or industries) is necessary to fully understand the implications of the open innovation approach for RIS evolution. Description of the business model of the sampled enterprises We describe here in greater detail some characteristics of the sampled firms working in the life science field. European and extra-European circuits of knowledge creation and diffusion. but the use of research collaborations can compensate low levels of internal investment. Acknowledgements We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the “Programma di Azioni Innovative” of the Regione Emilia Romagna and ICaTSEM (Institutional Changes and Trajectories of SocioEconomic Development Models). F. our methodological choice allowed gathering finegrained information on the role played by research collaborations in firms’ external search processes. Classification of the Emilia Romagna life science sector firms based on their main product.7%) while the most relevant are the institutional ones. doi:10. Learning at the boundaries in an “Open Regional Innovation System”: A focus on firms’ innovation strategies in the Emilia Romagna life science industry. et al. Interestingly. Considering that firms in our sample belongs to several sub-sectors of the life science industry. Policy (2010).1016/j. despite being still embedded in local nets (involving several regional PRO). Finally. Our results showed that several firms in our sample do not follow the closed innovation model as they employ various external sources of innovation.respol. / Research Policy xxx (2010) xxx–xxx available in both the industry and institutional sub-systems. strengthening the importance of the “learning at the boundaries” mechanism in a new ORIS model. 23 are mainly commercial (but they have developed on order large quantities of specific products) and 5 have a fifty/fifty mixed activity. This evidence is particularly relevant because it testifies a shift towards the “ORIS” model. who provided invaluable assistance. One likely interpretation of the substitution effect is related to the costs of simultaneous network building and internal R&D investment. another future research challenge is to investigate the evolution towards a model of ‘open RIS’ using a longitudinal research design. This finding is consistent with the study conducted by Valentin and Jensen (2003) on R&D collaborations in food biotechnology. Thanks are due to Silvano Bertini of the Assessorato alle Attività Produttive Sviluppo Economico and Maria Grazia Zucchini of ASTER (Associazione Scienza e Tecnologia Emilia Romagna). Our results showed that firms in our sample establish the largest part of their research collaborations with actors localised outside the region (54%). In this respect. institutional-based.2010. The most frequently used are clients and customers and semi-public sources (51. In order to explore this aspect in the Emilia Romagna life science RIS. the study presented a detailed analysis of the spatial distribution of R&D collaborations. Belussi et al. In the ORIS model. Any remaining errors are our own. 10 No. where firms innovation search strategy.014 .

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