Business Ecosystems and Open Innovation


Course Objective

Academic and Research Skills:
• Possess an in-depth understanding of the fundamental knowledge
elements and underlying logic of BE & OI.

Knowledge of Theory + Methods and Solving Complex Problems:
• Are equipped with both the classical and the most recent theories and
practices of BE & OI.
• Are able to critically reflect on the key literature streams by
management gurus in the field.
• Are able to apply BE & OI perspectives to real-life situations, and
develop meaningful interpretations of the findings.

Professional Social Skills:
• Are able to communicate their views with respect to these BE & OI
perspectives and approaches, both verbally and through written reports
(individual and team-based).

Horizon Beyond Professional Area:
• Are able to develop critical thinking, creative thinking, independent
thinking, and original thinking in this course, being innovative and
become champions of technological/ organisational/ environmental/ social
innovation in organisations and society.

Self-Reflective Professional:
• Continuously learn and unlearn, reflect on social behaviour as well as
knowledge absorption both at the individual level and at the group

Course Content

Most innovations fail, but companies which do not innovate, die. In
nowadays rapidly-changing, increasingly inter-connected global economy,
making use of a variety of innovative organizational modes in business
ecosystems to achieve sustainable performance becomes an inevitable
theme, which has caught the attention of many organizations.
In the meanwhile, the modern ways of innovation have brought serious
challenges to the theories and practices of traditional strategic
management. On the one hand, we are constantly impressed by the
emergence and success of several pioneering new types of firms, such as
Uber, Airbnb, facebook, Tesla, Amazon, and Alibaba. While many
long-established, resource-abundant and technologically-advanced firms
gradually lose profit margins in their traditional markets, these new
types of firms— many of them were with very limited initial resources,
and several of them do not even produce any physical product— have
achieved extraordinary performance. How and why did these once seemingly
neglectable, small firms succeed? and how to strategically manage their
innovation process to achieve sustainable performance? On the other
hand, numerous well-established, reputable, and large corporations have
opened their arms to embrace the new developments in management and
strategy. Shell’s “GameChanger” showcases the value of corporate
venturing, Heineken’s “Ideas Brewery” advocates crowd-sourcing,
Unilever’s “open innovation portal” emphasizes external partnerships,
Eli Lilly’s “InnoCentive” promotes innomediation, and the Philips-led
“High-Tech Campus”— which is only an-hour drive away— is built entirely
on the Open Innovation principle by encouraging knowledge inflows and
outflows across the porous boundaries of individual organizations. In
short, in the era of open innovation, there is no one dominating way to
innovate and succeed, but instead, we see “a thousand flowers blooming”.
Indeed, we are now experiencing a dramatic shift from a focus on the
value created by a single company and product to the evolution of the
whole value system created by networks of companies or product
ecosystems (e.g.: the numerous companies that are based on the Android
operating system and the ecosystem surrounding the iOS operating system)
based on a wide range of innovative approaches, in which the internal
assets and capabilities of each individual organization are blended with
external entities. Many of these organizational arrangements fall
outside the traditional value chain of suppliers and distributors that
directly contribute to the creation and delivery of a product or
service. Companies co-create business and societal value with other
organizations in their ecosystems by encouraging complementary invention
and exploiting indirect network effects. A business ecosystem includes
heterogeneous stakeholders of your own business, including companies
that are either horizontally or vertically linked to your business and
provide complementary products that are used in conjunction with your
offering, companies to which you outsource business functions,
competitors and customers whose actions and feedback affect the
development of your own products or processes. The ecosystem also
comprises entities such as regulatory agencies and media outlets that
can have a less immediate, but just as powerful, effect on your
business. Relatedly, open innovation refers to both knowledge inflows
and outflows across organizational boundaries in such business
ecosystems, embodying a variety of (modern) organizational modes: in-/
out- licensing, spin-in/ out, outsourcing, transaction of Intellectual
Property (IP), new business developments (NBD), incubation, corporate
venturing, both formal (e.g.: strategic alliances) and informal
collaborations (e.g.: participating in conferences, knowledge exchange
via social media platforms), employee mobility, innomediation, mergers
and acquisitions, as well as divestments.
The Business Ecosystem & Open Innovation course brings together the
recent developments on industry platforms, stakeholder management,
organizational ecology, (open) innovation management and strategy, and
shows how these literature streams relate to managing innovation within
and outside the firm as well as to dealing with technological and market
disruptions and change over time. Building on this, we will zoom in on
each specific phase of the evolution of business ecosystems and their
management, and engage in in-depth discussions regarding the modern
organizational modes based on open innovation principles.

Teaching Methods

Lectures, Seminars

Method of Assessment

The grade of this course is based on three types of assessments:
1) Class participation;
2) Three in-class mini-exams on the course content and related readings
3) Team work on social network analysis

Entry Requirements

Student in MSc Business Administration


The literature of this course consists of a selection of academic papers
and news articles, to be announced on Canvas.

For students who want to get the most out of this course (or who do not
have a management or strategy background), you can prepare yourself by
reading the following books:
- Chesbrough, H. W. 2003. Open innovation: The new imperative for
creating and profiting from technology. Harvard Business Press: Boston.
- Iansiti, M., & Levien, R. 2004. The keystone advantage: What the new
dynamics of business ecosystems mean for strategy, innovation, and
sustainability. Harvard Business Press: Boston.

Target Audience

Master students

Recommended background knowledge

This course can be followed by a broad adueince, but preferably with an
interest in strategic management and innovation

General Information

Course Code E_BA_BEOI
Credits 6 EC
Period P3
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty School of Business and Economics
Course Coordinator dr. J. Du
Examiner dr. J. Du
Teaching Staff dr. J. Du

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar, Lecture
Target audiences

This course is also available as: