Symbiotic Innovation: Proactive, Concerted Spin-Out and Spin-In

Even if you’re not a biologist, you probably know that the term symbiotic refers to a mutually beneficial relationship, where the activities of one have a positive impact on the other and vice versa. (Actually, if you are a biologist you’d know that the more precise term is “facultative mutualism,” but symbiotic is less of a tongue-twister.)

So why would I use this term to talk about innovation? Because it is how innovation can—and should—occur in any R&D organization. It doesn’t matter if you’re a company, a university, or a government lab, if you’re investing in technology development, Symbiotic Innovation is the best way to do it.

Symbiotic Innovation is the proactive and concerted operation of spin-out and spin-in, recognizing that these are interdependent activities.

Spin-out is making your technologies (or capabilities) available to users outside your organization. And most R&D organizations have offices—technology management offices, commercialization offices, tech transfer offices, technology licensing offices, etc.—dedicated to securing royalty revenue, fees, and even nonfinancial rewards via spin-out.

Spin-in is tapping into external competencies to accelerate your own R&D, solving a problem that cannot be solved as quickly or cost effectively with your internal resources. Many R&D organizations do some form of this, usually in the form of mergers and acquisitions, work-for-hire contracts, in-licensing, and in some cases joint-development collaborations.

The problem? Spin-out and spin-in usually are viewed as two separate activities. You either have something that others need and spin it out to them, or someone else has what you need so you spin it in so you can use it.

But that’s a short-sighted, myopic view of innovation.

Symbiotic Innovation recognizes that organizations should not choose between spin-in or spin-out, but they should do both simultaneously. Symbiotic Innovation recognizes that these activities are interdependent, that they inform each other, that each makes the other more successful.

Spin-out asks, “Who needs what I have?” Spin-in asks, “Who has what I need?” But Symbiotic Innovation knows that the “who” in both questions is the same.

Open Innovation discussed opening the door to the inflow of external ideas and the outflow of innovations to market via new channels. Symbiotic Innovation takes the next step of walking through the door, making those inflows and outflows happen proactively and in a concerted manner.

Intrigued? Stick around. I have a lot more to say about this:

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Posted by Laura Schoppe

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