New Report Helps Businesses Get Help with Open Innovation

Companies hoping to collaborate with other firms to create new innovative business opportunities will benefit from a new report by the University of Cambridge. The study tackles question of how to get help with open innovation.

The approach, known as Open Innovation (OI), is a way of developing new products or accessing new technologies through working with external business partners.

The partnerships help firms gain access to new ideas or skills they need to compete in evolving markets and meet rapidly-changing customer demand, or to find additional opportunities to exploit internal innovation.

But OI often requires a vast set of capabilities which businesses may not possess in full, so they often seek assistance from ‘innovation intermediaries’.

Now the University’s Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) has produced a new guide to help firms select the right innovation intermediary for their business.

The publication of the report “Getting Help With Open Innovation” has seen researchers investigate how companies select the most effective source of help with open innovation.

The result of a year-long study involving companies and organisations including as BP, GSK, PepsiCo EPSRC and NESTA, the report aims to suggest  a structured approach to selecting the most appropriate intermediary for a particular company’s needs.

Packed with numerous tips and examples, the report also aims to help intermediary organisations clarify and improve their services for their clients.

Researcher Dr Letizia Mortara, of the IfM’s Centre for Technology Management (CTM) described the significance of the new study:

- Our research had identified a clear desire for a structured method of selecting innovation intermediaries. This came from the intermediaries themselves and the companies which used their services. Most firms turn to intermediaries for help in accessing and developing the skills and capabilities needed to implement open innovation partnerships.

- The issue for many companies is that intermediaries come in a bewildering range of forms, ranging from commercial and technical consultancies, to government departments and academic networks. And because they provide such a wide range of services, from market and technology strategy development, product development, to specific technology problems, it makes the process of selecting the appropriate intermediary very difficult.”

Dr Mortara said the report was designed to provide a structured approach to assess each organisation.

- Intermediaries vary considerably in terms of the capabilities they offer their clients. The report equips companies with the right questions to ask in order to be able to assess whether a particular organisation is right for them. In turn the report also helps intermediaries to clearly state what their services consist of and to clarify their offering for clients.

The research drew on interviews with more than 100 organisations, both intermediaries and users of intermediary services.

The study, which builds on previous research on innovation carried out by CTM, including last year’s report “How to implement Open Innovation”, also includes a directory of more than 100 innovation intermediaries.

Research partners

The following companies and organisations sponsored the research project underpinning the Getting Help With Open Innovation report: BP, CIRA, Crown Cork, Doosan Babcock, EPSRC, GSK, IXC-UK, NESTA, Oakland, PepsiCo, Quotec and Shell.

About The Institute for Manufacturing

The University of Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), is a division of the Department of Engineering. The IfM brings together expertise in management, economics and technology to address the full spectrum of industrial issues. Its activities integrate research and education with practical application in companies, providing a unique environment for the creation of new ideas and approaches to modern industrial practice. The IfM works closely with industry, at a regional, national and international level, providing strategic, technical and operational expertise to help companies to grow and to become more competitive.

About Dr. Letizia Mortara

Letizia Mortara joined the IfM’s Centre for Technology Management as a Research Associate in 2005. Letizia has a first degree in Industrial Chemistry gained at the University of Bologna in Italy. After spending three years working as a process/product manager in a chemical industry, she moved to the UK where she gained her PhD in processing and process scale-up of advanced ceramic materials at Cranfield University. Letizia’s current focus is in the areas of Strategic Technology Management and Technology Enterprise.