In a global and highly competitive environment, innovation is becoming riskier and costlier. Against this backdrop, firms are challenged to allocate their innovation resources efficiently to obtain the most benefits. To this end, integration of management systems and open innovation are internally- and externally-oriented managerial practices, respectively, that may foster innovation efficiency. However, they have been scarcely researched jointly. Based on longitudinal analyses of 220 Spanish firms, this study concludes that integrating management systems could foster innovation efficiency. Conversely, open innovation might hinder it. It is also evidenced that innovation efficiency is relevant to boost the sales productivity of new products.
In a challenging world dominated by fast changes, firms are pushed to innovate efficiently, optimizing their limited resources to benefit their stakeholders through new products or processes (West and Anderson, 1996; Wong et al., 2009). It is thus a primary managerial challenge to attain an efficient innovation process so that firms can keep growing. Stated differently, firms should adopt the accurate managerial practices that boost innovation efficiency and consequently, expect to grow sustainably. Guided by efficiency, firms should produce the appropriate outputs that pay off the resources used in the innovative process (Fichman, 2004). Not only the firms’ internal trade-offs are important in this process, but also their own performance compared to their key competitors’. In this line, innovation efficiency is defined as the relative efficiency of firms for transforming resources (inputs) into innovations (outputs) (Deprins et al., 1984), so firms that are more efficient innovating might achieve more internal and external benefits as follows. Firms innovating efficiently use less resources to innovate (Cruz-Cázares et al., 2013; George et al., 2002; Greco et al., 2017) and create a stronger innovative basis due to their learning capabilities (Weerawardena et al., 2006). Once firms increase their innovation efficiency (i.e., the process of transforming resources into innovations), they might enhance their performance due to the commercialization of such innovations, which occurs in a second stage (Guan and Chen, 2010; Wang et al., 2016; Wang and Wang, 2012). Therefore, firms innovating efficiently might also achieve better sales productivity results when commercializing their new products (de Leeuw et al., 2014). The OECD (2008) highlights that organizations operate within a global and highly competitive environment so innovations are becoming riskier and costlier. This challenging landscape has led firms to increasingly open their innovation processes to collaborate with external partners, including suppliers, customers, universities, among others (OECD, 2008). This paradigm, referred to as open innovation (OI), describes how firms interact with external organizations to attain their innovation goals using less resources and exploiting those new outcomes in the market (Chesbrough, 2007, 2003). OI is therefore aimed to improve innovation efficiency. More specifically, a firm can be defined as more efficient in its OI approach than another if it obtains better innovation outputs starting from similar OI inputs (Greco et al., 2017). Although the existing literature about OI is very extensive (Lopes and de Carvalho, 2018), the concept of innovation efficiency in the OI literature is surprisingly an under-researched topic (Greco et al., 2017).