How does open innovation support open research? Lessons from the eCHOing project




In the past two years, the eCHOing project fostered open innovation practices in small cultural heritage organisations. The term open innovation is applied to partnerships supporting innovative practice where an organisation doesn’t just rely on their own internal knowledge, sources and resources (such as their own staff) for innovation of products, services, business models, marketing processes, funding etc. but creates relations with other organisations and the citizens to introduce novel practices.

The project, funded by the Erasmus+ programme, aimed to explore how the cultural heritage sector, which had been considerably impacted by the closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, can recover, fostering new partnerships. The focus was on small cultural heritage organisations which have limited budgets and staff and traditionally worked with volunteers to deliver their activities.

Within the project we developed training content and established collaborations between universities and small museums which aimed to develop specific activities typical for open innovation in the sector (hacktivism, innovation labs, crowdsourcing, citizen science, maker culture, developing new communities, etc.).

In this poster, we will be sharing our experience from open innovation activities, which, in fact, produced outcomes beneficial for research and discuss the connection between open innovation and open science. Over 20 small collaborative projects had been implemented in 2022-23 in various institutions across Norway, Estonia, Italy, Bulgaria and Greece. About a third of the implemented collaborative projects had outcomes relevant to research.

While open innovation within the cultural heritage organisations’ context is seen as a booster of their capacity and expanding activities, it also has a positive impact on research in several ways.

  1. Open innovation, which supports the development of new technological tools. One of the examples was a project where students developed a tool for searching in a historical collection of newspapers in the Bulgarian language, allowing them to discover relevant content across two centuries and six orthographic reforms. This tool can be used for research by historians, linguists, and media scholars and adds a valuable new instrument within the open science domain.
  2. Expanding digital collections. Examples from Norway, Italy, and Bulgaria contributed to the creation of 3D museum objects and virtual exhibition components. These are valuable additions to the digital services and content offered by small museums and, in fact, expand collections with free content which will be available to researchers and educators.
  3. Promoting citizen science. We also had several examples of citizen science projects in Greece and Bulgaria. Involve citizens in activities which help to answer research questions or help the creation of new digital resources which will be openly available to scholars, educators, and members of the general public is another contribution to developing open science.

We will discuss challenges we had to overcome ranging from lacking capacity to language barriers.

The poster will share real-life examples as an inspiration for fostering more open innovation activities and will discuss the importance of planning for open science outcomes in open innovation initiatives.