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Studying Open Innovation collaboration between the high-tech industry and science with linguistic ethnography - battling over the status of knowledge in a setting of distrust

Els De Maeijer, Tom Van Hout, Mathieu Weggeman, Ger Post


Open Innovation collaborations often pit academia against industry. Such inter-organizational collaborations can be troublesome due to different organizational backgrounds. This paper investigates what kind of knowledge a multinational high tech company and a research institute share with each other, how they collaborate to innovate and what role trust plays in this process. Linguistic ethnography is used to analyze the relationship from within, based on the interaction between the parties during project meetings. Tracing the knowledge status of the topics discussed during project meetings and interviews with participants across social time and space, we tease out how (dis)trust develops and shapes the ongoing interaction. Debating which knowledge can be project harvested, reveals an interactional dynamic of distrust. The company tries to control the proceedings of the meeting and expresses distrust in the research institute. Its project management minded approach pushes the institute in a position where the latter has to prove its value. This dynamic is due to the level of operational secrecy, the short time to market, and the exploitative nature of the collaboration. Openness is highly valued by the participants, yet the type of knowledge that is allowed to be harvested as project knowledge determines how open – or closed – the collaboration process is in real time. Finally, flexibility and dedication are found to not necessarily lead to more trust, openness or sharing.


Knowledge sharing; interaction; trust; ethnography; management; open innovation

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© FEUP EdiçõesThe International Journal on Multidisciplinary Approaches on InnovationISSN 2183-0606