Industry Platforms and Ecosystem Innovation


  • Annabelle Gawer,

  • Michael A. Cusumano

Address correspondence to: Annabelle Gawer, Imperial College Business School, Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, London SW7 2AZ, UK. E-mail: Tel: +44 207-594-9174.


This paper brings together the recent literature on industry platforms and shows how it relates to managing innovation within and outside the firm as well as to dealing with technological and market disruptions and change over time. First, we identify distinct types of platforms. Our analysis of a wide range of industry examples suggests that there are two predominant types of platforms: internal or company-specific platforms, and external or industry-wide platforms. We define internal (company or product) platforms as a set of assets organized in a common structure from which a company can efficiently develop and produce a stream of derivative products. We define external (industry) platforms as products, services, or technologies that act as a foundation upon which external innovators, organized as an innovative business ecosystem, can develop their own complementary products, technologies, or services. Second, we summarize from the literature general propositions on the design, economics, and strategic management of platforms. Third, we review the case of Intel and other examples to illustrate the range of technological, strategic, and business challenges that platform leaders and their competitors face as markets and technologies evolve. Finally, we identify practices associated with effective platform leadership and avenues for future research to deepen our understanding of this important phenomenon and what firms can do to manage platform-related competition and innovation.