Most of you who have read my posts know that I am a strong advocate of open innovation and its application in conjunction with tech transfer efforts. I truly believe it is through the combining of diverse interests and capabilities that meaningful innovations are developed and important impacts can occur.
So today I want to summarize what I see as the most important things to keep in mind as you consider open innovation partnerships in your tech transfer work.
Open innovation is here to stay; it’s not a fad. Coined by Prof. Henry Chesbrough, the term “open innovation” is relatively new. But the concepts and activities behind it—that is, the matching of technologies to specific needs—have been around for a very long time. Being open to ideas, expertise, and technologies from external sources has long served many organizations very well, and IMHO every R&D organization can benefit from having an open innovation mindset. (Speaking of Chesbrough, you might appreciate this post about his tweet chat hosted by Stefan Lindegaard last year.)
But it’s not a silver bullet. As excited as I get about open innovation, it is not the only route to tech transfer success. It is essential to have a decision process for knowing when to in-license and when your own technology is the best starting point, when to collaborate and when to go it alone, when to use a tool like crowdsourcing and when a more active approach to finding tech solutions is warranted. There are tools and techniques for making these decisions—in fact, these techniques are what we focus on in our new Implementing Open Innovation webinar. But like most (all?!) things in the tech transfer industry, leveraging best practices is not the same as a one-size-fits-all approach.
Always prioritize. In her series about our licensing PRISM, Laura Schoppe talked about the importance of prioritizing. The same logic applies to forming open innovation partnerships. And in today’s resource-constrained environment, it’s more important than ever to be selective in deciding where to invest in forming partnerships. Narrowing your focus does not mean you’re closed minded. It lets you be proactive and pursue the best opportunities for success rather than being reactive and diluting your efforts.
It’s possible, but it isn’t easy. Reading open innovation success stories can be like watching Olympic gymnasts who make what they do look effortless. It’s easy to forget that this is hard work and it requires significant resources. First is identifying what you have and what you need and how those things align with the market. Then it’s finding potential open innovation partners. Then there’s the task of finding the sweet-spot and getting a win-win agreement in place. These steps take time and tenacity, but the payoff can be worth it. Speaking of which…
Strive for long-term relationships. I’ve blogged before about the importance of taking the long view and focusing on relationships rather than transactions. Certainly quick wins are important, but this is not to say that long-term benefits should take a back seat to short-term gains. Think of it this way, which deal would you rather have: The partnership with a quick, sizable payoff but then is done in 6 months with little potential for follow-on work or the deal whose near-term impact is small but where the value of the partnership will grow over time? If you’re not sure, check out Doug Foster’s post about a sprint-versus-marathon tech transfer story.
So there you have my five suggestions for leveraging open innovation partnerships in tech transfer. How have you been able to use open innovation in your tech transfer efforts? Share your comments here or send me a private message. And don’t forget to join us at the webinar!