Urenio Watch Watch: Innovation Clusters

InnoSee and Open Innovation

The InnoSee project aims to development of key competences of research-driven clusters (RDC) and e-learning modules for RDC managers training. Partners include IPS (Institute for Postgraduate Studies at the UNWE, coordinator), ITPIO (Institute for Training of Personnel in International Organizations), FUNDITEC (Foundation for Development and Technological Innovation), ASEV (Empolese Valdelsa Development Agency), INTELSPACE Innovation Technologies, FH JOANNEUM GmbH, and the Swedish TelePedagogic Knowledge Centre.

Training of RDC managers will be provided online through an interactive learning platform offering training material (case studies, interviews, videos, papers, powerpoint presentation, websites), tests, and assessment tools in a series of subjects related to RDC management, such as strategic planning, project management, market intelligence, technology transfer, open innovation, international networking and co-operation, patenting, and innovation funding.

Intelspace has taken the responsibility to develop the training module of Open Innovation. The module will be composed of five sessions of 45 minutes each focusing on:

  • Understanding open innovation
  • Open innovation and research driven clusters
  • Open innovation and living lab clusters
  • Open innovation, social media and research driven clusters
  • Open innovation and strategy in RDC: A roadmap.

Open innovation represents a big change in the way innovation is taking place, which is frequently referred to as “innovating innovation”. Towards the end of the twentieth century, the dominant innovation model was known as “closed innovation’. However, several factors started making closed innovation irrelevant. The erosion of the closed innovation approach has led to the emergence to the new paradigm of open innovation.

“Open innovation is the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively. [This paradigm] assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as they look to advance their technology.’ (Henry Chesbrough, Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm)

“…Companies can no longer keep their own innovations secret unto themselves; … the key to success is creating, in effect, an open platform around your innovations so your customers, your employees and even your competitors can build upon it, because only by that building will you create an ongoing, evolving community of users, doers and creators.” (Randall Rothenberg, editor, strategy+business).

Companies following a collaborative and open innovation strategy open their internal innovation processes and benefit from collaborating with external partners. Accordingly, enterprises look – in addition to internal sources – for external ideas to find innovative solutions, support external commercialisation of their inventions, e.g. through licensing, and form strategic RTD partnerships or networks with innovative partners. In some cases businesses even build a specific ‘˜business ecosystem’ , where they co-evolve their capabilities around a new innovation and jointly design in a kind of ‘˜mass customization’ new products and services to satisfy individual customer needs.

Within this paradigm, Living Labs offer environments for involving users in innovation and development, and are regarded as a way of meeting the innovation challenges faced by information and communication technology (ICT) service providers. Living Labs have thus generated a great deal of interest in the field of ICT in the course of the last few years. A number of European Living Labs are presented as open innovation platforms, meaning that the Living Labs serves as a real-world environment for collaboration among stakeholders in the value chain of ICT production.

CoreLabs, a coordinating unit associated with the European Network of Living Labs, describes Living Labs as “’ functional regions’ where stakeholders have formed a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) of firms, public agencies, universities, institutes and people, all collaborating for creation, prototyping, validating and testing of new services, products and systems in real-life contexts’. Regions serving as open innovation platforms include e.g. The Helsinki Living Lab ‘“an urban area near Helsinki, and the IBBT|i-City with 4000 test users in the Belgian cities of Hasselt and Leuven.

New trends of open innovation emerge also from the spread of information society tools and the increasing role of innovation as source of competitive advantage, development, and wealth. Innovation, however, is a tricky issue. We do not dispose adequate theories for predicting innovation in different sectors of industry and services, though we have plenty of tools and methods which assist and facilitate innovation in product development, process reorganization, and quality improvement. We tend to compensate the lack of theory about radical innovation (none can tell what the next big thing will be in an industry sector) with environments of innovation enabling the use of tools, instruments, and methods: financial tools, institutional tools, communication and information tools, creativity tools, and others.

Stefan Lindergaard writes on 15Inno that the key reason for focusing on the intersection of open innovation and social media is that interaction and involvement are two terms that work equally well for both open innovation and social media.

Social media contribute to three key aspects that support open innovation: 1) communication of relevant messages, 2) business intelligence that helps you better understand your ecosystem and 3) collaboration, including sharing of ideas and solutions. Many skeptics do not see much value in this today. This is fair enough as it is indeed hard to find good cases and evidence on such efforts, but please remember that we are still in the very early phases on this intersection of social media tools and open innovation. Open innovation has many channels for business opportunities ‘“ virtually as well as physically.

NineSigma launched the first open innovation social media destination (http://www.ninesights.com/) which is free to innovation seekers and solution providers. NineSights is a secure and collaborative online community that connects innovators of all sizes with the resources and relationships needed to drive business value. The platform allows innovation seekers to post innovation needs and solution providers to submit proposals and post technologies and solutions that are “for sale.’

In a world of open innovation, research driven clusters compete and co-operate with each other on a global scale. These clusters can be seen as local nodes of global knowledge flows in international value chains and innovation networks, and hence are widely recognized as ‘˜innovative hot spots’ leading to competitiveness and prosperity for regional and national economies. In line with the broader understanding of knowledge creation in innovation systems, collaborative and open innovation strategies increase the relevance of research-based clusters as local nodes in global innovation networks. Research-driven clusters are strongly influenced by research, technological development and innovation (RTDI) and thus depend on effective knowledge flows and science-industry collaboration facilitating specific learning processes and innovation activities.

Sotiris Zygiaris, PhD
July 2012