Friday, December 3, 2010

Getting help with open innovation: The role of intermediaries

A year-long research project lead by Dr Letizia Mortara of the University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing has examined the role of intermediares in supporting open innovation. The project was undertaken in collaboration with a consortium of industrial and other partners, including: BP, CIRA, Crown Cork, Doosan Babcock, EPSRC, GSK, IXC-UK, NESTA, Oakland, PepsiCo, Quotec and Shell.

Firms increasingly need to collaborate with other businesses in order to introduce new products or services. Such partnerships – known as ‘open innovation' (Chesbrough 2003) – help them gain access to new technologies, ideas or skills they require to keep pace with today's evolving markets and changing customer demands. However, this more collaborative approach is an innovation in itself, and demands a new set of capabilities which many businesses do not possess.

Companies looking for help with open innovation will find numerous organisations offering assistance – from commercial and technical consultancies, to government departments, national and local development agencies, academic networks and university technology transfer offices. These organisations have come to be known as ‘innovation intermediaries'.

This project focused on the ways in which intermediary organisations can help to increase the effectiveness of open innovation and intelligence gathering activities. In particular, it aimed to:
understand the ways in which companies can improve their innovation and technology intelligence activities by engaging with intermediary organisations
provide criteria for companies to support the selection of intermediaries to work with
give guidance to intermediaries on how to improve their services and to organise their business models

The findings of the research have been captured in a report published this month. The report aims to help companies select the most effective source of help with open innovation. It describes the capabilities companies need in order to implement open innovation successfully and the range of assistance offered by different types of innovation intermediaries. It suggests a structured approach to selecting the most appropriate intermediary for a particular company's needs and illustrates this with case studies and examples. The report also aims to help intermediary organisations to present their services more clearly to their clients.
You can download an electronic copy for free by clicking here.