This article, the second in a two-part series (click here for the first article), helps readers understand the considerations involved in establishing a corporate Open Innovation portal (OI portal) by looking at the Unilever and Elmer’s Products case examples. Both Jos Tissen and Shawn Heipp work for their company’s Innovation organization – groups responsible for speeding open innovation practice in each firm – and are the individual point persons for their OI portal activities. The article closes with common features/similarities between the two companies’ experiences to date and parting advice for peers considering innovation portals at their own companies.
I was amazed to see the response.
Unilever is a large multinational company with over 100 years of history and recognizable brands and products around the globe. The company’s 2013 annual report stated revenues of €49.797B. Unilever are so committed to Open Innovation that 55% of the company’s product pipeline comes from Open
Innovation activities. Despite this history and track record, Jos Tissen was surprised.
Tissen, Foods Category Open Innovation Manager, was amazed to see the response to Unilever’s Open Innovation submission platform. In the two and a half years since Unilever opened their portal for business, they’ve received over 3,500 idea submissions. “Even when you think that everyone knows Unilever and could guess what technology areas we focus our work on, you still have to tell people what you want – you really have to ask,” muses Tissen.
Tissen, an chemist by training and a technology scout in the company’s Open Innovation organization, remembers the meeting in which he volunteered to coordinate the site and serve as point person for distributing the submissions internally. “We were already working with yet2.com on some technology scouting projects. The decision to do an OI portal was an expansion of those activities,” he said. Unilever launched their idea submission portal, Collaborate to Innovate, in 2012.
Across the ocean, Elmer’s Products, Inc., a mid-sized company based in Ohio, U.S., has been providing “adhesive-based solutions for fueling creativity in the classroom, at home, in the workshop and at the craft table” for over 65 years. In 2011, Elmer’s moved to organize a dedicated Innovation team, to improve innovation function within the company and to move the company closer to an Open Innovation business model, tapping into external resources for growth and expansion.
Charged with reaching out to the inventor community to support open innovation activities, Innovation Technical Manager Shawn Heipp wanted to engage inventors more fully, encouraging them to share good ideas with the company. To figure out the best way to do so, Heipp explored best practices among companies known for encouraging inventors. That’s how he initially learned
about innovation portals.
“Elmer’s has engaged with inventors in the past, but we wanted a way to drive traffic to one centralized place, building awareness that Elmer’s is truly an ‘inventor-friendly company,’” says Heipp. “We wanted to build an organized system to receive submissions and also to start a deeper dialog – to let inventors know we can be a great partner to help commercialize their ideas.
At the time, Elmer’s had already been working with yet2.com on some technology scouting initiatives, and when he learned that yet2.com also offers innovation portal services, he moved ahead. Elmer’s launched its Open Innovation Portal in May, 2013. Through their portal, Elmer’s seeks technology ideas from inventors as well as from large and small businesses, and even universities.
In the first article in this two-part series, published in June, 2014, we outlined a series of important considerations to weigh when evaluating/deciding to implement an Open Innovation portal. This second article looks closely at our two case companies – Unilever and Elmer’s Products — to see how they made their system design decisions and how the portals are working for them today.
Briefly re-capping the Important Considerations we identified in Part I for an Open Innovation Portal:
Learn more about corporate innovation portals and the two successful case examples from Unilever and Elmer’s. This second article looks closely at our two case companies – Unilever and Elmer’s Products — and how they made their system design decisions and how the portals are working for them today.
By Emma Hughes
Emma Hughes, VP & Managing Director, Europe, yet2.com. She has been with yet2 since 2000 and manages the European region, generating new business and delivering on technology exploitation/acquisition licensing and innovation projects for many Global 1000 and SMEs across Europe. Emma has worked on a wide range of IP consulting projects, in biomedical, material sciences and consumer product areas. Work has included technology and technology need identification and evaluation, marketing and target strategy development and furthermore generating and facilitating cross-industry/regional connections for licensing deal activities. Since graduating with a BA Honours degree in the Healthcare field, Emma has gained over 15 years of business and management experience, working in business development, marketing, operations, and contract management positions. Emma utilizes her technology transfer experience and European network to drive technology acquisition and exploitation for yet2’s global clients, facilitating business development through technology transfer.
yet2.com provides turnkey Corporate Open Innovation Portal solutions to F100 clients as part of its broader array of Open Innovation services for an international corporate client base. To learn more about yet2.com’s portal services, go to our website, or contact us at [email protected] and we’ll be happy to send you more
information or schedule a conversation.