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Exploring the Open Source Hardware phenomenon: Empirical essays on the role of user communities in the creation of innovation, organizations and markets

Marroquin Cruz, Altair (2017). Exploring the Open Source Hardware phenomenon: Empirical essays on the role of user communities in the creation of innovation, organizations and markets. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Open source is considered an extreme case of the Open Innovation paradigm (OI). It involves the free revealing of information and a collaborative mode of production among members of communities. The increasing number of open source ventures in product types of tangible or physical nature has evidenced the Open Source Hardware (OSHW) phenomenon. It follows open source principles, but unlike software, the physicality of the product requires investment and a manufacturer for the production of the goods. This dissertation comprises three empirical studies that use multiple case study research to investigate three aspects of this phenomenon and its relation with user communities.

Firms initiate user communities or build linkages to existing ones with diverse purposes, e.g. improving efficiency and generating innovation outputs. In the first empirical study, I argue that the relationships between entrepreneurs and user communities are important to co-create a new market. I show that for the market of OSHW products, firm-community interactions helped to forge a sharing identity and differentiate firms and the market, creating awareness and enhancing reputation, which facilitated the perception of value by market audiences and ultimately the acceptance of the market.

Appropriability is central to the commercialization of products, but conflicts with the free revealing of products’ designs. The second empirical study aims to shed light on this tension and to answer how the physical nature of open source products determines how firms capture value. The study discusses the impact on the portfolio of protection and appropriation mechanisms, which includes users communities as a complementary asset. In addition, the appropriation strategy is not complete without governance mechanisms that help to manage the complementary asset.

The third empirical study posits questions related to firms’ sustainability, how to implement strategies that support the source of ideas outside firms’ boundaries and the maintenance of relationships with external actors. Considering new forms of organizing in alternative spaces such as sponsoring/partnering makerspaces to reach out external collaborators. I use the liminality concept as a lens to shed light on how spaces can help to spark creativity and induce innovative behavior. I propose a conceptual framework that explains how firms craft spaces that facilitate their objectives towards OI.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
Doctoral Theses
Bayes Business School > Bayes Business School Doctoral Theses
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