I was gratified last week to watch a video with University of California at Berkeley Professor Henry Chesbrough—who has been called the father of open innovation—discussing his new book: Open Services Innovation. I enjoyed this video not only because what he was discussing related to Fuentek in terms of what we do for our clients but also because his remarks reflected how we operate as a business.
Regarding what we do for our clients, Prof. Chesbrough said: “Companies can work with outside intermediaries to scout for ideas.” Well… yes, that’s what we do as a provider of technology transfer consulting services for commercial clients as well as for universities and government labs.
He goes on, “[Companies] can put up their own Web sites to solicit contributions from other people to suggest ideas. They can even list some of their own projects and patents and other intellectual property for others to make use of.” Again, I say yes. (And if you want to do this for yourself, check out the white paper from Fuentek’s Karen Hiser about building an effective tech transfer Web site as well as the Insights section of our Web site.)
That idea of working both sides of the innovation equation is at the heart of what we at Fuentek call Symbiotic Innovation. As far as I’m concerned, taking a proactive and concerted approach to pursuing both the spin-out of your own ideas and the spin-in of external ideas and technologies is what technology transfer is all about.
But what really struck me about this video is that it also related to what we are doing in this blog and in the Insights section of our newly designed Web site. Rather than viewing our deliverables as commodities, we are all about the implementation of the service and helping clients to achieve their goals. It’s like the example Prof. Chesbrough gave about how Xerox is now offering managed print services because customers ultimately want the copies, not the copiers and printers. In training classes I often tell tech transfer managers that the licensee may be “buying” the drill but it’s the properties (better, faster, cheaper) of the resulting hole that matters to them—Chesbrough’s printer example is the services version of the same thing.
So we at Fuentek are open and sharing about the how-to’s because it helps the entire tech transfer industry innovate. Yet in doing so we’re not compromising our competitive position. There are lots of consultants and “innovation brokers” out there who offer similar things, but how we work is what makes us different. That’s a service that can’t be commodified.
–By Laura A. Schoppe