As more and more companies openly collaborate and innovate with third parties, the question of proper intellectual property (IP) management arises. The companies have to rethink their innovation models and strike a balance between what knowledge they share with partners and stakeholders and what they can gain from collaborations with them.
If a company manages poorly its relations with external stakeholders, it can be at risk of distributing confidential information related to its intellectual property and losing profits from innovation.
According to the European IPR Helpdesk, open innovation can be carried out in various forms, such as:
In order to protect their assets and maximize future gains from open innovation, companies should implement internal IP protection measures in the early stages of collaboration. This can be accomplished by:
When collaborating, parties often disclose know-how and technologies that have not been protected yet. To avoid potential misuse of such information, it is highly recommended to conclude a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that establishes the conditions of collaboration and sharing of sensitive information between partners.
European Startup Network
Industry 4.0 enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT) allows for the integration of people, assets and applications within a company. It also contributes to the integration of a company with its wider ecosystem, which probably consists of customers, subcontractors, suppliers and R&D partners.
Major trends that encourage Industry 4.0 are shorter product and service lifecycles and therefore the need to speed up time to market. Thus, the need for innovation will be increased. It might bring organisations to their limit in terms of innovation capacity and capabilities internally. Open Innovation can be an approach to master the innovation game and to stay competitive in fast-changing markets.
The term Open Innovation was coined by Henry Chesbrough, a professor at UC Berkeley`s Haas Business School. In his definition it is “the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation and to expand the markets for external use of innovation”. This is based on the acknowledgement that knowledge and experience within an organisation is limited and that internal regulations/processes might even cause further limitations to evoke innovation.
The most prominent challenge that comes along with Open Innovation is how to handle the intellectual property (IP). The collaboration with third parties in innovation could create conflicts about IP ownership and raise the question of which part of the innovation will be owned by whom.
Thus, it is a good idea to have a contractual regulation between the organisations for the processes of open and connected innovation fostered by Industry 4.0. There could be also a framework agreement between the organisations, that will set the rules under which joint innovation will take place.
Several domain leaders are looking to collaborate with start-up companies that are more open to novel approaches and flexible in their approach towards manufacturing. These start-ups usually focus on creating new technologies that can enhance the capabilities of existing organizations by leaps and bounds.
Another major benefit of partnering with start-ups is that they are smaller in size and it is easier for them to adapt to the changing business ecosystem. Finally, services offered by start-ups that are just beginning to gain scale in the market are usually priced low and are easily affordable. Thus, organizations can save huge amounts by opting for start-ups instead of established companies for their collaborations.
Moreover, start-ups usually come armed with a variety of new-age entrepreneurs that are skilled in several cutting-edge disciplines. The exchange of novel thoughts and ideas between individuals who have worked on and with leading technologies is always a huge plus for evolving companies.
Things to Keep in Mind While Collaborating for Innovation
Keeping in mind that digitization will be at the heart of these collaborations, here are some key factors that can lead to a successful collaboration between organizations:
Currently, rapidly evolving trends and multitudes of challenges exist in the manufacturing industry. Along with widespread technological uptake, companies will have to go through complete mindset shifts in order to survive in the 4th industrial revolution. Organizations carrying out business alongside each other will be required to become one unit, to share digital technologies and infrastructures and remain competitive in this ever-evolving business landscape.
Different from the traditional R&D business model that keeps all the information internal, companies who embrace Open Innovation let the door open and ask for external ideas to solve their current business challenges more efficiently.
According to the article Could Open Innovation save the world? (Fitzgerald, 2020), there are few aspects that Open Innovation can bring benefits to the company:
However, not merely more companies are participating in the Open Innovation programme because the payoff is not always clear and also it is difficult for companies to identify which business solutions can create value for all the stakeholders. The author in the article suggested that companies should focus on the overall ROI created by open innovation rather than the individual return of each solution.
Responding to the title of the article, can Open Innovation really save the world” our answer might be yes, but the problem lies in how to make it happen.
In the Upskilling Lab 4.0 project, we will develop a robust model of collaboration between startups and corporates, the skill development network to make more Open Innovation and collaboration happen.
European Startup Network
The World Economic Forum is providing a manual to help startups and corporates work together.
The White Paper illustrates the Benefits for each side, going through Risks they should be aware of, and it finishes with the Challenges they both groups are facing when working together. The main conclusion is that they have to develop a common understanding of collaboration.
It offers a good deal of FAQ that each group has to clarify before entering the collaboration and through its life cycle (Startups: Budget, Economic Buyer, Amplifier, Metrics, Target for the Corporate; and Corporates: What, Why, Which and Who).
Moreover, the document offers several Collaboration and organization models for corporates when working together with startups. Few snapshots from the White Paper are available below, but for more extensive understanding we recommend a review of the paper here.
1. Direct Sourcing
2. Internal Innovation Unit
3. Corporate Incubator Model
4. External Subsidiary
5. Entrepreneurial Co-creation Model
University of Deusto