Supply chains continue to growth in complexity, including numerous echelons and numerous players per echelon. Consequently, a company needs to integrate its activities with suppliers and customers, in order to survive. Innovation is a typical example of activity that a company should share with suppliers and customers. In particular, over the last few years, a specific concept of “open innovation” has been paving the way in the innovation management field. This paradigm describes a new approach to internal R&D management, which assumes that firms can and should use external ideas and internal ones, as well as internal and external paths to market, as they look to advance their technology. The aim of this paper is to provide insights toward open innovation practices in a specific supply chain, the food machinery one, moved by the consideration that there is little empirical evidence of open innovation strategies within this context. By means of case studies and semi-structured interviews, we examine a three-echelon supply chain, thus providing a picture of the adoption of open innovation in the food machinery industry. Results show that the actors that more adopt this new paradigm are manufacturer and customer, although all the three actors investigated agreed in defining the benefits derived from innovation and open innovation mechanisms. From this study, theoretical and practical implications can be derived and transferred to the whole food machinery industry.
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