Governance, Policies and Legal Conditions for Access to MarketReflections on policy, regulation and governance for Open Innovation: Toward a research and policy 'enabling framework'

Author: Takis Damaskopoulos & Anna Sadowska
Series: Research report
Publication Date: 2012
Category: Premium Membership

This report is part of the Open Innovation Strategy and Policy Group (OISPG) annual Yearbook series.

This paper outlines an approach to the analysis of policy, regulation and governance conditions that can facilitate and extend practices of Open Innovation (OI). The approach stems from several streams of research currently underway at the European Institute of Interdisciplinary Research (EIIR) that address trajectories related to the development of the Future of the Internet. The approach is designed to identity and evaluate key enablers of, and barriers to, OI specifically framing them in ways that make them subjects for policy and regulatory action, along with the modalities of implementation, specifically the identification of the key actors/decision-makers/stakeholders, as well as the institutional vehicles, whose engagement and involvement is deemed critical for the design and implementation of OI initiatives. 


Defining OI as a policy, regulation and governance field

Current research demonstrates that whether the Internet is viewed as ‘polymorphic networks of networks' or as an ‘execution environment for smart applications, services, interaction, experience, and data'[1], defining OI as a technology problem is not at all straightforward. It is less so when it comes to policy, regulation or governance. OI as a policy and regulation field is not obvious, self-evident or a subject of consensus among its key stakeholders, be they researchers, practitioners or policy makers. In fact, the OI ‘field', in much the same way as the Future Internet itself, can best be conceptualized as a ‘contested terrain' encompassing positions that range from ‘minimalism' to ‘maximalism' regarding the role of policy, regulation and governance[2] [3]. An important part of the work outlined here is to animate this field as a ‘forum' in order to enable the OI community to identify paths that might lead to equitable and consensus-based policy responses that generate optimal benefits.

There are several debate currents on the optimal level of policy, regulation and governance of OI. Most of them focus not so much on ‘policy' or ‘regulation' as much as they do on governance. The term ‘governance' does not refer exclusively to acts or duties of government. Governments do play an important role in many forms of governance. However, the concept is broader, and extends beyond merely the state apparatus. Governance, apart from traditional policy and law includes multiple tools and mechanisms. Governance can operate through several other equally important channels such as institutional design, decision-making structures and procedures, social norms, and technology.

In order to operationalize the term in the context of OI it might be useful to refer to political science and political economy terminology regarding the exercise of power in social and political systems. From this vantage point, the terms governance, policy and policy implementation are fundamental to the overall governance process: governance is about "who" has rights to take decisions, to exercise power in a given domain of concern; policy is about "what" policies and rules are to be implemented in order to the achieve the goals of those who exercise power; policy implementation is about "how" to put into place and enforce the policy, which opens up the question of democratic participatory regimes, and their alternatives[4].

This broader problématique of governance is particularly relevant when it comes to discussions of OI policy and regulation design. One way to conceptualize a fruitful approach that addresses the policy, regulation and governance aspects of OI is with reference to ‘layers' of governance. This approach argues that modern communications networks, and specifically the Internet, should be understood as a series of ‘layers' rather than as an assorted complex of different technologies. The approach lists at least three such layers: 1) a physical infrastructure layer, through which information travels; 2) a code or logical layer that controls the infrastructure; 3) a content layer, which contains the information that runs through the network[5].

The approach is by no means exhaustive. It is possible to change the names of the ‘layers' or include several additional ‘layers'. The point is not which specific layers we choose, but that OI as a policy, regulation and governance field can be broken up into discrete analytical categories. As a consequence, OI governance can be organized on multiple ‘layers' that have diverse magnitudes of impact in different domains that individually might affect the development of the whole. One important issue in this respect concerns synchronization or coherence of decisions at different ‘layers' that might affect the development of OI as a whole.

Toward a multilevel policy and regulatory analytical framework for OI

In terms of methodological approach to the analysis and design of OI policy, regulation and governance it is important to break with traditional conceptualizations of policy as blueprinted ‘intervention' or ‘guidance'. A more productive way is to think through the concept of ‘enabling framework'. Such a framework is focused on removing bottlenecks to OI practices in ways that enhance economic and social dynamism and the innovation capacities of social, economic, and policy-making participants. It is driven by an underlying model of policy, regulation, and governance design that views social networks as ‘living systems' evolving over time depending on the composition of the political, social and economic environments in which they exist, and other factors rooted in location and history.

This approach stresses the importance of a key challenge policy-makers face: prioritization. Prioritization and implementation of OI initiatives cannot rely exclusively on government. It is at least arguable that competition under globalization along with the growing intensity use of ICT alter the structural conditions of policy and regulatory intervention. Government is an important factor in shaping OI environments but so are companies, universities and public and private research bodies, and other institutions of government and civil society. Government itself, on the other hand, is not the unitary entity it appeared to be when macro-policies defined government intervention. At the micro-and meso-policy levels, relevant for the implementation of OI, many different types of government agencies at all levels of administration and geography have an impact. And this is fundamentally a question not of government but one of governance among different stakeholding organizations within a spatially dispersed system of competencies geared to achieving potentially conflicting objectives[6].

In other words, OI-related policies should be crafted with the input of civil society, business, government, and technical experts. The participation of all relevant stakeholders is needed to develop and implement OI objectives. An effective and innovative multi-stakeholder approach is needed for government, the private sector, the Internet technical community, civil society and individual, or communities of, users to jointly shape the policy, regulatory and governance environment of OI.

In this context, it is critical to adopt a ‘dialectical perspective' that expresses the interdependencies across OI-relevant policy and technology dynamics. More specifically, it might be appropriate to examine OI policy, regulation and governance from two analytically distinct, but in reality interrelated perspectives: 1) OI policy, regulation and governance as seen from a ‘technology perspective', and 2) OI-relevant technology as seen from a ‘policy, regulation and governance perspective'.

The merit of this approach is that it opens certain dialogue terrains that cannot be accessed by adopting a single - either ‘technology' or ‘policy, regulation and governance' - perspective. The issue is one of interdisciplinarity [7]- but more importantly one of inter-epistemological challenges in constructing effective bridges of communication across diverse decision-making communities involved in the OI - be they in the public or private sectors. In other words, though establishing cross-disciplinary paths of communication is important, an emerging fundamental issue concerns addressing the challenges of how knowledge is built within different disciplines and stakeholding communities and the challenges of establishing knowledge complementarities across them.

One way to construct such bridges is to pursue the formation of a multilevel governance framework that would allow us to explore linkages between EU, national, regional and local/urban policies and ways the strengthening of linkages across them might more effectively address OI challenges. A multilevel governance framework calls for the narrowing or closing of the policy "gaps" between levels of governance through the adoption of mechanisms and tools for vertical and horizontal cooperation.

The vertical dimension of multilevel governance recognizes that EU institutions and national governments cannot effectively implement OI strategies without working closely with regional and urban/local governments as agents of change. A multilevel governance approach also recognizes that urban/local governmental authority required to act in areas related to OI is often "nested" in legal and institutional frameworks at higher scales. Thus, a two-way - ‘top-down' and ‘bottom-up' relationship that involves agents of state, government, civil society and individuals - exists between EU, national, regional and urban/local action levels on OI as each can enable or constrain the other.

The horizontal dimension of multilevel governance acknowledges the opportunity for learning, information transmission and cooperation across EU, national, regions, and urban/local governance structures. Horizontal governance activities can give government, business, research and non-governmental organizations influence in the OI policy dialogue process. The horizontal dimension of multilevel governance is also associated with improving coordination across EU, national and regional authorities to implement cross-sectoral OI initiatives. Horizontal relationships at the sub-national level can also exist in the form of national and transnational networks and coalitions involving urban bit also rural regions[8].

Emerging policy, regulation and governance areas in OI

Applying this methodological framework it is possible to identify key policy, regulation and governance issues that need to be addressed from a dialectical standpoint in order to generate critical capacity mass across different disciplines and stakeholding communities in order to establish knowledge and action complementarities across them. Below we outline a few of such issues:

In terms of a policy, regulation and governance as seen from a ‘OI technology perspective' issues such as:

- Online Identity, including anonymity, digital presence, rights to delete information, etc.
- Security of communications, including legal implications
- Cloud computing, including the risks and benefits of virtual access to information, etc.
- Content regulation, including copyright, licenses, open access, etc.
- E-democracy, including transparency, open government data, empowered citizenship, services to citizens, etc.
- Digital citizenship, including individual and corporate rights and responsibilities, etc.
- Digital inclusion, including access and use of Internet by vulnerable populations, etc.
- Trust, including risk drivers, actors at risk, risk management, etc.
- Online communities, including social networks, virtual relationships, etc.
- Internet of things, and the connections between people and devices
- Distributed knowledge production, including e-science, e-learning, etc.
- Cybercrime and Cyberlaw, including phishing, cracking, cyberterrorism, etc.

In terms of technology as seen from a ‘OI policy, regulation and governance perspective' issues such as:

- Social and political dynamics of unification and fragmentation of the Internet
- Tendencies of reassertion of national sovereignty in the Internet ‘space'
- Trends toward the commercial ‘digital territorialization' of the Internet
- Trends toward the protection of, and challenges to, ‘net neutrality'
- Sets of political, legal, social and security reasons that act as drivers of potential fragmentation
- The role of cities (‘smart' and otherwise)
- Scenaria of ‘fenced' internet systems and governance mechanisms across them
- Trends in the regulation of network operators (specifically regulatory variance regarding ‘open access')
- Internet of Things and Internet of Doing Things
- Internet-driven social impacts (social networks, fraud, piracy etc.)
- Trust, privacy and security



[1] Future Internet Assembly Research Roadmap, Toward Framework 8: Research Priorities for the Future Internet, May 2011.
[2] Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, The open Internet and net neutrality in Europe, Brussels 19.04.2011;
[3] Internet Governance Forum 2010: Developing the future together, Fifth meeting of the Internet Governance Forum, Vilnius 14-17 September 2010.
[4] Kapur, Akash, Internet Governance: A primer, United Nations Development Program, 2005.
[5] Kapur, 2005; Benkler Yochai, From Consumers to Users: Shifting the Deeper Structures of Regulation Towards Sustainable Commons and User Access, 52 Fed. Comm. L.J. 561, (2000).
[6] OECD, Communiqué on Principles of Internet Policy-Making, OECD High Level Meeting on the Internet Economy, Paris 28-29 June 2011.
[7] Draft Report of the Task Force on Interdisciplinary Research Activities applicable to the Future Internet, Version 4.1 of 13.07.2009
[8] On an application of this policy framework analysis see OECD, Cities, Climate Change, and Multilevel Governance, Paris 2009.


Dr. Takis Damaskopoulos
Executive Director

Dr. Anna Sadowska
Manager for Eastern Europe

European Institute of Interdisciplinary Research (EIIR)