Examining engagement and network activity in opening up innovation within and across the manufacturing industry

  • Tomasz Witkowski

Student thesis: Phd


Recent years have seen a renewed focus on the importance of the manufacturing sector to the future growth of the UK economy. Most critically perhaps, governance studies have linked the UK’s strength in manufacturing to its ability to innovate. However, these studies also imply that to be more competitive, UK manufacturers must develop new products and processes across both emerging and established industries, availing themselves of new knowledge and solutions. This renewed emphasis on innovation requires effective engagement with a variety of actors and firms in the local, national, and global economy. Adding complexity, following Brexit, manufacturers will still have to outsource business activities and rely on existing EU suppliers and customers to help to drive innovation. Thus, in this unstable new situation, to be successful in creating novel products and services will require organisations to cultivate strong relationships. Therefore, this thesis examines how and when manufacturing firms can engage stakeholders more effectively across the innovation funnel, uncovering how those relationships affect development and decision-making and how they define courses of action and creative output. To this end, an ethnographic study was conducted at a manufacturing company in the UK that decided to make its innovation activities collaborative to develop a novel quality-inspection technology and new strategic framework. The underlying processes of engagement are understood under the framework of AT, through which the study offers a thorough analysis of how engagement evolves in practice, when this work is effective, and what consequences the promoted relationships have on stakeholders’ creativity and performance. As a result, this thesis establishes a stronger link between stakeholder engagement and open innovation discipline. It demonstrates also that for stakeholders to be meaningfully involved in innovation processes, they must first disengage from the norms, places, and situations that hinder their concentration and creativity. Drawing upon its analysis, this paper proposes for professionals a framework that can be applied to organise the engagement process in an open innovation context. Finally, thesis suggests that scholars investigate diverse industries and how organisations can tie stakeholder engagement to innovation strategies that, as the results explain, remain on periphery of manufacturers’ organizational activities.
Date of Award31 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPaul Chan (Supervisor)


  • Project
  • Activity Theory
  • Management
  • Open Innovation
  • Manufacturing

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