Open innovation – a case of “nothing ventured, nothing gained”

The modern business world is using a new buzzword: “Open innovation”. What does it mean? How “open” do we need to be? What could be the benefit? And what does it look like in reality?

First of all, open innovation is a method of business development for organizing innovation. It aims at driving forward innovative ideas in order to produce new products and technologies. The difference to conventional innovation processes is that not only internal but also external resources are entering the development process. Why should we do that? If you have ever experienced some kind of routine-blindness, you will know that a foreign perspective and a view from “outside” might bring miracles to pass.

Being open in a secure area

Where if not in science and research is the ideal breeding ground for open innovation? But of course – A scientist won’t start without any plan, and that is as it should be! Crucial obligations for a successful open innovation process are a strong network of stakeholders, clear rules and roles for all participants and a centralized coordination. IP is an important issue, ESPECIALLY, when development happens in an open innovation approach. A clear contractual basis ensures that acting partners are not reserved and feel free in bringing in their ideas, while being sure about ownership regulations.

Let’s put it into practice 

There are many tools to implement open innovation. All of them have in common that innovation relies on a broad knowledge base from inside and outside. It builds upon a pool of technologies, experiences and deep scientific knowledge. In this sense, acib has established the research market place some years ago, where technologies, project opportunities and services from acib and its partners are offered to a broad community for common approaches, such as joint research projects, contract research, license agreements or the founding of spin-offs.

Open innovation also means open discussions and lively exchange. Platform events for networking and meeting stakeholders support getting into dialog and developing new ideas for collaboration. Also acib has recognized the importance of an active network and initiated the European Summit of Industrial Biotechnology (esib), an annual meeting of stakeholders from science, industry and politics. esib stands for an open discussion atmosphere and inspires participants for new project collaborations.

Some straight forward approaches

How could you as an individual researcher participate in open innovation? For example you can live open science by publishing in open access journals. You can provide methods, data and open educational resources. You can share your infrastructure with other organizations and get access to theirs in exchange. You can participate in so called “co-creation labs” which are events and projects that are dedicated to a particular challenge and that strive for a coordinated joint innovation process for finding solutions.

An important pillar for research and development is also the society. Research institutions more and more strive to get into dialog with the general public. Demands and concerns of society are important aspects for new solutions and, therefore, the amount of citizen science projects was significantly increasing in the past years.

Too many cooks spoil the broth?

A side effect of open innovation approaches is the complexity of projects increasing with each and every participant. This might be hard to handle and demands a high level of coordination skills. However, open innovation approaches have a high potential to create meaningful synergies. They save costs and resources. And all stakeholders have the opportunity to be involved at an early time point, which makes a development process more efficient. So, let’s forget about the cooks spoiling the broth. Many hands make light work!

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Picture credits: Pixabay