Innovation Apr 20, 2015

"Open Innovation is an innovation model based on the sharing of knowledge and know-how" Henry Chesbrough

The Silicon Valley, cradle of the American innovation, represents the embodiment of an economic model that the world is now seeking to reproduce, as well as a source of emulation where the main challenge is the race for innovation with digital technology at the core of it.

Market development is pushing for this change of economic paradigm, while its changes are also numerous and diverse. With consumers continually developing new expectations, competitors are regularly emerging and new products and services are constantly appearing on the market. These factors have led companies to rethink and to reinvent themselves ever more quickly.

How to reinvent oneself? At first, one needs to operate the change by putting forward the expertise of more agile performers such as start-ups, who are often driven by a logic of “Test fast, fail fast," and constitute a powerful engine to create innovation; secondly, it is important to implement change within internal practices in order to bring interactions, as well as knowledge and know-how shares at the forefront. This new model is commonly known as “open innovation.”

However, this new innovation strategy can undermine certain actors such as traditional players including large groups, but also start-ups that wish to establish a collaborative innovation, but do not always know how to implement it. Therefore, the Partech Shaker, the first campus dedicated to open innovation introduces five essential tips for a successful open innovation.

Establishing alliances with the Research & Development department

Universities constitute privileged partners for businesses. They provide scientific data enabling the creation of clusters or competitive hubs. Start-ups are an integral part of this process and can play a major role during this stage. For instance, the competitive hub Systematic, gathers researchers, large groups, start-ups and academics.

Offering employees to participate to the innovation process

Open innovation is grounded in listening and taking into account the company’s members’ opinions. The traditional pattern where only "white coats" were heard, is propelled towards a model in which every employee, regardless of his position, can offer his ideas for the improvement, evolution and progression of the company.  Values such as co-creation, team spirit and sharing are not only promoted by open innovation but remain at the core of it. IBM illustrates this at best when in 2003, the company initiated "ValueJam," an offered brainstorming extended to all employees to redefine the company's values[1]. The initiative was renewed in 2006, where over 150,000 employees' opinions were requested and later led to the development of ten innovations by the IT company[2].

Involving the customers in the company’s strategic choices

Assessing the opinions and reactions of consumers is a criteria that should not be disregarded by companies. It is essential for a company to bond with the consumer in order to comprehend its expectations in the best possible ways and to offer him the possibility to openly take part in the company’s strategic choices. Practically, this may be interpreted into the creation of online social networking platforms, where consumers are able to give their opinion. Start-ups support and aim to push forward these practices that constitute an innovation within the internal organisation of companies themselves. Companies like Starbucks have hence decided to use this method, by launching a collaborative website for its campaign "My Starbucks idea." The purpose was to create a virtual suggestion box in which customers could recommend ideas and proposals to improve the future of the company.

Combining a network of start-ups and engaging communities to innovate

Engaging communities is also part of the open innovation process. The interest of open innovation is to connect innovation communities within their locational, institutional, or subject-related belongings.

Creating a network of young dynamic companies enables the outsourcing of innovation risks, or even the subcontracting of parts of the R&D, but also to inspire from work methods permitting a real innovation within the company. Start-ups have indeed put innovation at the heart of their business and as a result, have coordinated this change within their organisational working models.

The availability of open source projects is a good way to unite a community, as well as to locate and to identify innovation communities that are sometimes overshadowed and meet difficulties to be noticed by big groups, whose vision can be restricted due to their traditional organisation.


Crowdsourcing allows a company to use the ideas and contributions of all the members of the population. For instance, in 2009, the Singaporean government launched the "TourismCompass2020 [3]" initiative. This approach was intended to involve every stakeholders (inhabitants and visitors) in the development of the tourism industry in Singapore. Visions and improvements suggestions were collected in order to increase the tourism performance and its competitiveness for 2020.

Successful open innovation can be summarized in one obvious word: openness. It is necessary to open the innovation process to the greater number. The management principle “Most smart people work for someone else” supports this idea. Businesses, as important as they are, have become aware that there is more talent outside than within their own structures. They not only need to mobilize all of their internal resources, but also to call upon diversified and performant agents. It is at this point that start-ups and innovation networks like the Partech Shaker come into play.

[1] IBM site. Our Values

[2] IBM site. A Global Innovation Jam

[3] Tourism Compass 2020 to shape Singapore's tourism landscape, express travel world