Our Research

Research is our core focus in order to develop new theoretical explanations and empirical evidence on new practices, policies, infrastructures and design principles for open digital innovation. Our research considers both the social and technical dimension of the design of complex innovation systems. Most of our work is based on naturally occurring data, or field experiments and action-research. Some of our current projects include the following:

Global Open Innovation Executive Study 2014/2015

In 2012, a large-scale Open Innovation Executive Survey was conducted by UC- Berkeley and Fraunhofer-Society, to explore to what extent open innovation was applied in large firms in the USA and Europe. Results show, open innovation is growing into a mainstream phenomenon of increasing business relevance in large firms where 78 percent of large firms in the sample had been applying open innovation although they were in the early stage of practicing and understanding open innovation.(To access the survey report, please click here: (http://goo.gl/wC6qRT)

Building upon these results, there is a need to advance our understanding of adoption of open innovation at project level. Existing academic literature and theories on open innovation have regularly focused on firm-level aggregates to understand the role of open innovation in firm performance; they have not provided sufficient insights into the adoption of open innovation at project level. The Open Research Center for Open Digital Innovation (RCODI) at the Purdue University and the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation at the University of California-Berkeley in collaboration with Fraunhofer-Society want to address this gap by conducting this research. We implement the second Open Innovation Executive Survey in order to deepen our understanding of adoption of open innovation not only at firm-level but also at project level. In a nutshell, in this research project we aim to implement a quantitative survey study on open innovation among senior executives in large firms in the USA, Europe and Japan with the main focus on different open innovation practices, new practices and ways to deal with managing and sharing know-how and IP, and new ways to measure open innovation performance.

Creating Impact from Governmental Open Data (OD): The Performance Effect of Transparency in OD Contests – The Purdue IronHacks

Primary Research Questions:

  • What are the effects of innovation performance transparency and solution transparency on participation and innovativeness of Open Data solutions in Open Data contests?
  • How does transparency in open data contests affect civic participation?
  • How does transparency influence the novelty, usefulness, and popularity of open data solutions?
  • Are there differences in the way agencies and citizens evaluate the innovativeness of these solutions?

In a series of ‘first-of-its-kind’ 3 weeks fully virtual hacks known as “The Purdue IronHacks“, we explore transparency and participation in Open Data (OD) solutions in OD contests. The OD project introduces the concept of innovation performance transparency and solution transparency in OD contests. We draw upon the theory of private-collective innovation, self-organizing governance and our previous research in organizing innovation contests, collective action, and open public policy and problem solving. The goal of this project is to provide a new perspective on how to promote impact from governmental OD. Using machine readable open datasets from Data.gov focusing on the areas of: Health, Energy, Climate, Education, Finance, Public Safety, and Global Development, we conduct an empirical quantitative study to explain the effect of innovation performance transparency and solution transparency on governmental OD impact.

Following a data driven and computational research approach, in a series of quasi-experimental OD contests, several hundred citizens, developers, and students will participate in a ‘virtual’ lab environment. Non-expert citizens and developers will collaborate to identify problems, share different perspectives, critical decisions, and seek solutions. The degree of innovation performance transparency and solution transparency will be measured in order to determine the effect of transparency on participation and innovation. Findings from these experiments will be implemented in larger national OD contests, such as the National Day of Civic Hacking. In sum, this study will provide evidence-based guidelines for the design of OD contests and how to utilize transparency and knowledge sharing to increase the impact of governmental OD.

Open Source Software practices

Reflecting the commitment to foster and build Open Source Software practices, Red Hat Inc. sponsors a two-year Red Hat fellowship for Discovery Park’s Research Center for Open Digital Innovation (RCODI). Red Hat Inc. provided a 100,000$ gift to Purdue to advance in this field led by technology and innovation professor Sabine Brunswicker. The objective of Red Hat funding this fellowship is to establish itself as a “significant catalyst of open-digital innovation ecosystems and communities research intended to answer questions critical to sustainable impact of open standards and open-source and novel open forms of innovation and production in a broader sense,” Brunswicker said. Open Source Software is lately gaining traction in fields that traditionally were considered to be close as telecommunication, health care, or even banking. Therefore, this fellowship is divided in two different stages. The first stage is to understand how Open Source Software practices are evolving by focusing on studying a prominent community ‘OpenStack’ that is effectively using the latest practices. OpenStack is a set of software tools for managing and building public and private cloud computing platform. The second stage is researching how these practices can be applied to other fields as telecommunications. Through the fellowship research on architecture, governance and behaviors of heterogeneous open-innovation communities as OpenStack will be examined. Research results will be shared with Red Hat as part of a collaborative dialogue between these two groups.

Investigators: Sabine Brunswicker (PURDUE), Albert Armisen (PURDUE)

  • Research Stream: Open source software, open innovation, ecosystems
  • Duration: 24 months
  • Sponsor: Red Hat

Managing Open Innovation with Business Impact in the Digital Age 

In collaboration with the Accenture Institute for High Performance (AIHP), we have implemented a series of open innovation (OI) case studies to generate new insights on how large, innovative firms use open innovation to solve their strategic innovation problems. With the increased digital transformation of many sectors, such problems are increasingly difficult to address. Our preliminary research suggests that one of the keys to running a successful open innovation program is choosing the correct operational mode of open innovation for the business problem at hand. This requires evaluating problem complexity and knowledge uncertainty associated with a business problem.

A number of companies who have chosen to integrate open innovation have realized that there are specific management practices required to effectively execute open innovation. Open innovation problems can involve a high level of uncertainty and technological complexity, and require firms to move from traditional modes of collaboration (such as alliances) towards more open interactions with deeper exchanges of know-how and greater ambiguity such as crowds and communities. There are management challenges specific to open innovation that require a unique set of strategies and processes to be in place in order to overcome these challenges and be able to achieve higher business value from open innovation.

This study aims to create a guided open innovation framework to help companies leverage optimal value from open innovation by selecting the appropriate open innovation mode, and integrating successful management strategies to balance the tensions of knowledge sharing and protection in the midst of strategic and operational ambiguity.  This framework will also equip open innovation leaders with new insights into successful practices for creating business impact from open innovation.


Designing Future Megacities with the Crowd: Wicked Urban Problems and Firm-sponsored Civic Innovation Crowdsourcing 2015

With the rise of megacities, urban innovators are exposed to increasingly ‘wicked’ societal problems, such as urban mobility. Looking beyond traditional modes for solving these problems, this research sheds light on civic innovation crowdsourcing; a new open model of innovation for solving societal problems in the public and government sector. Through a unique case study, a civic innovation contest sponsored by Bombardier was examined using content analysis. Civic innovation crowdsourcing and how team submissions and geographic contextualization shape the problem solving process was examined in three major cities, Belo Horizonte, Vientiane, and London.

Researchers found that: 1.: Civic Innovation Crowdsourcing creates a diverse set of comprehensive solutions and highlights key complexity attributes from a citizen’s perspective, 2: crowd members tackle complexity at the level of each problem dimension and collectively highlight critical attributes and novel solutions, 3.: Civic Innovation Crowdsourcing furnishes an alternative mode of urban problem solving and affords addressing complexity breadth, and 4.: team and individual submissions differ in the way they address complexity, with teams addressing more attributes of a problem than individuals. This case suggests that designing with the crowd may overcome a central ‘tragedy’ of urban Mobility: While mobility is a greater good that is fundamental for cities to flourish, it puts other public good at risk. Thus, only jointly with the citizens, can businesses, city councils, and NGOs design future mobile urban ecosystems that will ‘evolve’ towards greater economic, social, and ecological performance.

  • Investigators: Volker Bilgram, Sabine Brunswicker, Johann Fueller
  • Research Stream: Civic Innovation Crowdsourcing
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Partners: HYVE AG, Bombardier

Increasing Creativity through Anonymous Dissent 2015

Employees within an organization are often encouraged to contribute to internal Open Innovation Challenges, however the creativity of their contributions may be limited by their perceived freedom to express ideas and opinions that are against majority opinions or organizational norms. Troublesome ideas and opinions may impact their work reputation, standing within the organization, and even their future employment. One option is to make all contributions to internal Open Innovation Challenges anonymous, however that would reduce the social and reputational rewards associated with participation and co-creation of solutions. Working in conjunction with Bright Idea, a leading Open Innovation Platform provider, we are testing the impact of selective anonymity, where participants can flag their contributions to be displayed anonymously. Using selective anonymity, participants can enjoy all the usual reputational and social rewards that are accrued while participating in an Open Innovation Challenge, while simultaneously offering risk-free minority dissent, which is necessary to increase diversity of opinions and inspire creativity.

We are Partnering with Landcare Research, one of seven Crown Research organizations in New Zealand,  to test the effects of selective anonymity on participant contributions. Utilizing a strategic planning question that is of pressing importance to the organization, we will assist Landcare Research by running an internal Open Innovation Challenge on the Bright Idea platform, which includes the opportunity for selective anonymity, and instructions to guide participants in the importance of anonymous contributions.

  • Investigators: Sabine Brunswicker, Jeremiah Johnson
  • Research Stream: Open Innovation
  • Duration: 6 months (3/2015-8/2015)
  • Partners: Landcare Research
  • Sponsorship: Landcare Research,  New Zealand

Social Influence and Social Contagion in Online Open Innovation-Contest Community 2015

There are increasing numbers of online innovation contests designed by organizations to benefit from the outsourcing of collaborative innovation, creativity and knowledge from a “crowd”. Online open government community (OOGC) is a typical example of the innovation-contest community. Citizens engage in this online community to share ideas with policy makers for helping solve governmental problems. When people start contributing, communicating or commenting online it is unknown what social influence factors or competitive elements exist in innovation-contest communities that shape people’s behavior. This project examines the effects of social influence (e.g., discussion leadership effect, peer behavior influence, preferential attachment effect) and how these factors affect people’s behavior in the OOGC community. Researchers conducted an empirical study applying quantitative behavioral analysis approach, including social network perspective, descriptive analysis, and dynamic panel data model. Data was collected from an OOGC engaged in a governmental online innovation contest in Bavaria, Germany in 2010. Results suggest the role and impact of social influence in the design of open innovation contests is an important factor to consider.