The meaning of Open Source Innovation for the future firm

Open Source Innovation (OSI) is an important topic for firms today. At present, most markets experience shorter development cycles due to digital innovation and transformation. Customers show increasing interest in individualized products. Put differently, customers and users become part of value creation processes. As a consequence, new services to integrate external knowledge are needed. What is more, firms need to increasingly open themselves through platforms. In addition, production changes due to smaller and more customer-oriented production units.

So-called hackers, focusing on open source software development, once initiated OSI. Motivated by the idea to freely and openly develop code on a shared basis, those hackers created entirely new markets (e.g., Linux). Essentially, their creative collaboration leveraged novel and disruptive ways of product development as well as new and complementary business models. 

Research team Open!

How will Open Source Hardware lead to the innovation of business models?

Until recently, research on Open Source Innovation has mostly focused on software. Yet, when firms like Local Motors expand their method of open hardware innovation by openly developing physical objects with a global community, new research questions arise: How can business models capture the opening of interfaces for developing OSI? How can the firm generate value through opening its business model? How will the customer—the central dimension of the business model—be integrated into the developmental process? Additionally, how does the customer profile change during the aforementioned process?

Open! – a DFG-research project with international partners

The research project Open! at HIIG tackles the aforementioned research questions. The team is headed by Prof. Dr. Hendrik Send. He is supported by Martina Dopfer, who investigated the business model development of early stage startups within the Berlin ecosystem during her doctoral dissertation. Jointly, the research team concentrates on OSI beyond software.

The research team has already conducted several interviews and workshops, including Renault with a special focus on the Renault Twizy and 20 more open source hardware projects. Based on the data, it derived first traits of the actors of OSI, which describe particular personas. The team also visualized processes of open product development.

Duration03/2016 – 02/2019


Hendrik Send, Prof. Dr.

Associated Researcher: Innovation & Entrepreneurship

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Former employees

  • Judith Günther
    Former Student Assistant: Internet-enabled Innovation
  • Martina Dopfer Martina Dopfer
    Former Associated Researcher: Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Vivian Weitzl
    Former Student Assistant: Internet-enabled Innovation

Working paper

Neumann, E.K., Send, H., Tech, R.P.G. (2017). Central components of open business models. What makes an open business model open? HIIG Discussion Paper Series. Publication details

Other publications

Dopfer, M., Weitzl, V. (2017). Die Entwicklung von Open Source und die Disruption der Hardware-Industrie. Digital Society Blog. Publication details