Openness Analysis of the Innovation System

How can we make the German innovation system more open?

Involving different actors and perspectives, we mapped the openness of the German innovation system. Based on this, we identified levers for a change towards more openness in Germany.


The German innovation system is complex and inert: Numerous actors and relationships between science and industry, established structures in administration or incentive systems that are difficult to break through make it difficult to bring about positive changes and to assess the effects of funding measures and the like. Therefore, we first need a comprehensive understanding and mapping of the impact mechanisms in the system in order to then identify promising levers for a positive transformation in a next step and formulate a mission statement for openness in the innovation system.


– Promote knowledge exchange between actors and integrate different perspectives
– Identify and visualize interactions between system factors and issues
– Create a common understanding of the situation and impacts of the German innovation system
– Develop recommendations for future policies and programmes for an open innovation system, based on the systemic insights gained earlier

Method and procedure

With the help of a systemic approach, we first surveyed the current situation in 2020, focusing on challenges and preconditions for opening up the German innovation system. For this purpose, we drew on existing studies and involved more than 50 actors from business, science, politics and civil society in a multi-stage process through qualitative interviews and workshops.

Our methodological approach combined systems analysis and design thinking approaches. Through a participative and qualitative approach, it took into account individual as well as organizational needs, and through the system perspective we were able to better understand the “big picture”. We were able to gain a comprehensive understanding of the interplay of the most important factors, impacts and long-term effects that hinder or enable openness in the German innovation system. A better understanding about complex systems helps us to develop holistic action strategies that work with the inherent dynamics of the system to bring about positive change.

After an exploration phase with literature research (desk research) and qualitative interviews, initial system maps were developed in our innOmap workshop at the end of August 2020 with actors from different sectors. A map was then generated from several maps, which was sharpened by evaluative interviews.

With the analysis of the systems map, so-called “leverage points” were discovered – levers in the system that can activate positive dynamics and behavior towards more openness.

In a further step, we developed a portfolio of measures (see below) at different levels with which openness can be promoted in the German innovation system.

We are currently developing a roadmap for openness from the results, which, supported by various actors, establishes cross-sectoral guard rails for more openness in the innovation system. It summarizes our findings and, supported by policymakers, helps the stakeholders jointly achieve our vision: In this vision, all relevant stakeholders in Open Innovation ecosystems develop new insights, design innovative solutions and establish these for added value for society as a whole and as a global role model. Of course, the path to this goal is a long one with a lot of experimentation and learning, which we would like to accompany with innOsci.

Results and Documents

The first central result was an interactive systems map to depict the interrelationships of the innovation system and to make its complexity graspable (see embedded map below, in German only). On the overview page of the map you will find a video recording of our event on 27.11.20 and the link to a presentation – both lead through the map.


The personas reflect the findings from ten qualitative interviews and the desktop research. They do not represent individual interviews, but illustrate typical perceptions, challenges and desires in implementing openness in business, civil society and research for their respective perspectives. The personas help us to think in a different perspective and at the same time represent the key actors in our vision of an Open Innovation System.

Measures Portfolio

First, the analysis of the systems map was used to identify eleven leverage points in the innovation system that describe potential areas for a positive development toward greater openness. A wide variety of implementation measures and ideas were collected for these fields, which were condensed into a portfolio and assigned to different levels: From measures on the individual impact and action level to the systemic and political level and, on the other hand, on the level of impact fields dealing with competencies to framework conditions.

Measures on the micro level of individuals or competencies can usually be initiated easily and quickly, but they do not have as high a potential for change as measures at macro levels, such as the policy and systemic levels. The latter, however, are much harder to get going. Many path dependencies are at work here, and in some cases paradigm shifts are necessary that call previous assumptions into question. For more openness in the German innovation system, it is not enough to launch individual projects, but a portfolio of measures supported by many organizations and stakeholders is needed to bring about systemic change. This provides a strategic overview and orientation, and together measures can be coordinated, learning experiences can be gathered, and measures can be adapted accordingly.

We would like to thank Systemic Design Group, Daniel Gawlowski and all participants in the interview and workshop for their support!