Open Innovation – Many minds. Many ideas.

Solutions to the problems of the world – Opening up research

Climate change, seas full of waste, dwindling energy sources, bee deaths, micropollutants in drinking water – our world is full of questions for which we urgently need solutions. The world is full of ideas and innovations that cannot be implemented because they are not known or not financed.

The opening of more and more research institutions gives hope. Why?

Opening is not just opening – the terms open source and open innovation are often used synonymously. But the two are very different.

Open Source or Open Innovation: What does this “opening in research” mean?

Open source

The web browser Firefox, the operating system Linux and the web server Apache are open source software. Open Source refers to the rights to the systems. These are free – have open access for use – for everyone.

Open innovation

Open Innovation, on the other hand, does not make intellectual property completely freely accessible. Here, intellectual property is the commodity that is traded. Open innovation thrives on the fact that ideas are captured and collected outside the company’s boundaries, or that own ideas and competences are made available outside the company – but the principle is not free access for everyone, as is the case with open source.

Open Innovation means, on the one hand, the absorption of foreign knowledge and, on the other hand, the transfer of knowledge to others. Figuratively speaking, this creates continuous “innovation pipelines” through which intellectual property is traded and exchanged.

In the long history of evolution, those who have learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have always prevailed. (Charles Darwin)

The end of secrecy

Great ideas usually do not come from the solitary thinking of one single brilliant person. Great ideas come about either on the initiative of individual geniuses, but often through teamwork.

Secretiveness was often the result of the fear of losing knowledge and not being the first company on the market with a product. This fear is justified in some respects, as different companies often research similar topics at the same time, as the English saying “early bird catches the worm” beautifully illustrates.

That is why secrecy was long considered to protect the return on innovation

Until through the Internet not only people started to connect. Researching institutions are now also exchanging much more information. And it turns out that such an exchange brings advantages.

Today the guiding principle of innovation management – ten years ago still unknown

The systematic opening of the entrepreneurial innovation process is still comparatively young. Although the basic idea is not new and large companies have been working with universities for some time, the opening up of the Internet has been given a driving catalyst.

About ten years ago, the first companies began to involve other companies and customers in their developments in a completely new way, in addition to research institutions such as universities.

From value recipient to value creator – the customer

Thanks to information technologies, companies can benefit significantly from having them become active as product developers when they access a research topic.

The pioneers of this movement were companies such as Procter & Gamble, Siemens, Xerox and Philips.

Licensing in and out – lively exchange

In addition to the electronics industry, pharmaceutical companies in particular are also involved in trading patents. This involves the purchase of necessary intellectual property, also known as “in-licensed” or even sold.

In return, if they cannot be used by the company itself, they are also “out-licensed” again. In this case, interested parties can acquire patents that they want to use for their businesses.

Caution and advantages

Open Innovation” will broaden the spectrum of knowledge. It enables companies to integrate knowledge from other research institutions and to pass on knowledge that is not needed to others.

The value of this exchange is obvious: research and development is improved through cooperation – good ideas can be brought to market more quickly instead of waiting in the drawers of patent departments to be marketed.

Turning Point Communication

One of the major challenges for companies is to decide which developments they want to open up and which not. Similarly, for some research tasks it may be useful to involve external researchers, but not for others.

The first question to be answered is therefore always how and with what external researchers could contribute. For companies, this means that – thanks to the Internet – they need to be well acquainted with the state-of-the-art of external research institutions. Not just for the sake of competition but for the sake of cooperation: how else would they find out what others are researching?

While they try to understand whether they can transfer one of their questions out of context to another company, they discuss what everyone is currently researching. Goals and expectations are discussed.

Community is created through communication

Since the question of whether a development partnership makes sense has to be answered anew all the time, the communicative exchange does not stop. Even if the exchange of patents is basically no more than the active trading of knowledge, it also inspires the communicative exchange of information about the goals and contents of research.

There are people sitting at the tables

My experience is that among researchers the density of idealists is high. If these idealists now exchange ideas in search of tradable knowledge, then it can only be beneficial for the development of a society as a whole.

Against the background of the large number of small enterprises with high innovative potential, I assume that the journey into the world of joint innovations has only just begun.

If those projects that can solve our urgent problems are also realized here, then it will be a journey in which we all win.

Only together can many creative minds develop many creative solutions for our many problems.




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