Open Innovation: What is it?

Curious about industry partnerships for science-based startups? To understand how industry, academia, and startups work together today, it’s essential to grasp the concept of “open innovation.”

The origin of open innovation

The term has its roots in the 1980’s. A man with a passion for innovation named Henry Chesbrough was working for a large corporation. Chesbrough perceived a large divide in the R&D community, with research institutions and science-based startups on one side and large enterprises on the other.

Chesbrough set out to explore the gap. He completed a PhD and became a professor. Henry ultimately came up with the term open innovation to describe the work of bringing industry and external research into alignment.

Today, open innovation refers to collaboration between the most inventive organizations in the world and forward-thinking corporate leaders.

In Chesbrough’s own words:

“Open innovation is a concept I originated that falls directly in that gap between business and academe.  Conceptually, it is a more distributed, more participatory, more decentralized approach to innovation, based on the observed fact that useful knowledge today is widely distributed, and no company, no matter how capable or how big, could innovate effectively on its own.”

In short, the term represents a shift in how industry improves their products and services.

When an enterprise embraces open innovation, they are able to bring external ideas into the innovation process. This happen when industries collaborate with university research centers, independent research institutions, emerging technology startups, and others.

By looking externally, companies are able to profit from lower cost of development and talent outside the traditional borders of the firm. This may also create opportunities for out-venturing.

For startups, a joint development project or licensing agreement with large enterprise can help commercialize technology more quickly. From a university perspective, the mission of benefitting society through research can be achieved with help from large enterprise.

Barriers and roadblocks

Today, many companies are interested in changing the way they innovate. The main barriers they face are information overload, high transaction costs, and poor communication across different organizations.

How do these barriers manifest for technology creators, such as researchers and startups? Startups and research institutions have the overwhelming task of reaching out to large enterprise with news about their technologies. Usually, corporate technology scouts receive a great deal of news about innovations in their field of interest. There is so much activity, though, that startups and universities may never get through to the technology scout, despite valiant efforts.

On the other side, technology scouts are unable to parse through mountains of news from many different sources. They may struggle to synthesize the data and extract relevant opportunities. This slows down the process and forces technology scouts to do a lot of unnecessary legwork before they hit on a great new technology.

Helping get technologies to market, faster

At seedsprint, we know open innovation is something that should be accessible, easy, and centralized. We want to help extend the reach of TTOs, lean startups, and overwhelmed tech scouts. Make an account below and start networking.


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