The Empirical Base


In order to address this question, we chose to develop a set of in-depth case studies. Our earlier paper (Williamson and De Meyer, 2012) was based on two of the case studies: ARM, the Cambridge based designer of RISC processors, and the French developer of Product Life-cycle Management Systems, Dassault Systemes S.E. These case studies were updated. When we set out to improve our understanding of how to manage ecosystems, we realised that we needed more cases studies looking at the issues in a wider range of environments. We added six more case studies: the news-site The Guardian, the airplane-engine producer Rolls Royce in Singapore, Amazon Web Services (AWS), the data services of Thomson-Reuters (now Refinitiv), the Chinese online service provider Alibaba, and the US based athenahealth, a network services provider for healthcare companies. We investigated other case studies, including Uber, and the Ford Motor Co, which had announced its intention to enter the market for autonomous vehicles through an ecosystem. But we rejected these cases because they did not match our criteria for a true ecosystem. Some of them were pure platform companies, where the partners on the platform were not really contributing to joint innovation or the development of the ecosystem. Others were disguised supply chains, where the lead company exerted close control over the partners, or even tried to acquire and internalize them.


For each of these cases we build a rich file based on desk research and interviews. — Some of the cases, e.g. Alibaba (Williamson and Wang, 2014), ARM (Williamson et al, 2009), The Guardian (De Meyer and Lim, 2019) and Rolls Royce in Singapore (De Meyer and Joshi, 2014), are available in a somewhat simplified format as pedagogical cases through the case clearing house. A new case on the Building Construction Authority (BCA) in Singapore was developed later to illustrate how to build an ecosystem as a regulator.

In the next section we will describe six propositions covering how a lead company can build an ecosystem, which we illustrate with some excerpts from the case studies. In the section that follows we then highlight three levers that can be used to promote the growth of an ecosystem after it was established.

We recognize that as a result of reliance on in-depth case studies the propositions are hypotheses for further empirical research.  These propositions are a summary of chapters 4 and 5 in De Meyer and Williamson (2020).

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Starting up an Ecosystem for Innovation – The Empirical Base

by EcosystemEdge