Open Innovation and Open Data in Science-Based Industries

Open Innovation and Open Data in Science-Based Industries

Objective: In this project, we investigate the new strategies that companies in science-based industries use to work with universities and access public science.


Companies increasingly recognise that to successfully innovate they cannot exclusively rely on their internal R&D. Working with external partners allows them to access different pools of knowledge and save R&D costs. Universities are among the external partners that offer high promise, since they allow access to an enormous global pool of talent, skills and resources, given that, in OECD countries alone, expenditures on higher education R&D amount to £100 billion per annum.

Although these partnerships offer benefits to both sides, there are also significant impediments. Not only are there major differences in culture and organisational structure, but academic research focuses on long-term challenges and thus may move more slowly. By contrast, industrial R&D is driven by time-sensitive product development projects and day-to-day project solving. As a result, companies can sometimes find universities too slow and too bureaucratic to be good partners.


In this project, we conduct in-depth research to understand how pharmaceutical companies seek to attract scientists whilst allowing them the freedom to work on their own, curiosity-driven research. We study ‘go-between’ organisations situated between universities and firms. These so-called boundary organisations mediate between the different interests prevailing in academia and business. Such arrangements enable firms like GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Novartis to set up collaborations with academia.

One of our case studies explores the Structural Genomics Consortium, a boundary organisation established to undertake research on proteins relevant for the discovery of new drugs. Using an open data approach, the Consortium makes all of its results available for free, with no intellectual property attached.


This project will help inform the design of boundary organisations, acting as intermediaries between life-science firms and universities. In particular, we are interested in how the use of open data consortia can help both firms and commercial organisations to achieve their sometimes diverging objectives.