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Open data partnerships between firms and universities: The role of boundary organizations

March 23, 2017 by M. Perkmann, H. Schildt

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Science-intensive firms are experimenting with ‘open data’ initiatives, involving collaboration with academic scientists whereby all results are published with no restriction. Firms seeking to benefit from open data face two key challenges: revealing R&D problems may leak valuable information to competitors, and academic scientists may lack motivation to address problems posed by firms. We explore how firms overcome these challenges through an inductive study of the Structural Genomics Consortium. We find that the operation of the consortium as a boundary organization provided two core mechanisms to address the above challenges. First, through mediated revealing, the boundary organization allowed firms to disclose R&D problems while minimizing adverse competitive consequences. Second, by enabling multiple goals the boundary organization increased the attractiveness of industry-informed agendas for academic scientists. We work our results into a grounded model of boundary organizations as a vehicle for open data initiatives. Our study contributes to research on public–private research partnerships, knowledge revealing and boundary organizations.