Accessing a World of Distributed Innovation: Firm-Makerspace Collaboration

Mads Schøsler & Henrik Islann Farbøl

Student thesis: Master thesis


As knowledge has become increasingly distributed, innovative solutions are often available outside the R&D labs of major firms. The potential for these firms to acquire and leverage external knowledge is therefore an important agenda in current management literature, as the pace of change in knowledge may exceed firms’ ability to address external developments. Individuals engage in shared knowledge creation through the internet, but are also moving these creative processes off-line in shared workshops called makerspaces. Novozymes, a biotechnology firm, has attempted to access these knowledge sharing processes by engaging with one such makerspace, namely BiologiGaragen, in open collaboration. The collaboration led to the creation of a prototype for an open software bioethanol sensor. An analysis of this collaboration was conducted in order to develop an understanding of the firm-makerspace collaboration process and define areas for further studies. Thus, this study examines how a large R&D-intensive firm can engage in open collaboration with makerspace communities, and how it can affect the firm’s ability to alter its resource base in a dynamic capability perspective. The process model of Interactive Coupled Open Innovation, a model combining Open and User Innovation perspectives on distributed innovation, served as a framework for analyzing the firm-makerspace collaboration. Related literature on managing Open Source Software and firm-hosted communities, along with literature on dynamic capabilities, were applied to the framework in order to establish initial propositions for investigation. Empirical research was conducted in the form of semi-structured interviews with Novozymes employees, makerspace participants and external experts. The qualitative data was analyzed and coded in an iterative process. The analysis found support for several of the propositions but unexpected results led to amendments to the propositions and a revision of the initial framework. Intrinsic motivation for engaging in firm-makerspace collaboration was found for makerspace participants and firm employees. Additionally, the former were motivated by social interaction, while the latter desired challenges not found in their daily work and for management to approval. Initial contributions from employees were found important in order to establish a relation. Furthermore, makerspace participants needed to be involved in the process of defining projects. Dedicating employees to participate and contribute actively to the community was found conducive to sustaining collaboration, building trust and enabling employees to influence project work. Formal control was ceded by the firm as the collaboration was loosely governed to adapt to the characteristics of the makerspace. However, this led to issues of employees doubting the value of firm-makerspace collaboration. Benefits from firm-makerspace collaboration could be realized by establishing new resource configurations through three modes of dynamic capability: 1) leveraging existing resources in new ways, through employees participating in projects in makerspaces 2) accessing external resources, including alternative innovation processes and the human capital of makerspaces and 3) creating new resources internally, through knowledge and experiences from firm-makerspace collaboration. These findings together led to a revision of the initial framework, from a model of four consecutive stages to one of three dynamic and interdependent stages. The contribution of this research is thus to provide explorative theoretical and empirical insights and propose a process model for firm-makerspace collaboration. Future research within this field is required to test and elaborate on the framework as a larger amount of empirical cases emerge over time.

EducationsMSc in Management of Innovation and Business Development, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages154