Open Innovation: External knowledge successfully applied
24.05.2012 | OpenAlps launch conference discusses alternative working models
Gone are the times when entrepreneurs puzzled over new products behind closed doors. Today one opens up innovation processes – at least in part – and makes use of the knowledge of others. This new way of thinking is called „Open Innovation“. It can simplify and accelerate research, development, construction and marketing, thus reducing costs.
The OpenAlps Project launch conference happened on 24th April 2012 and attracted more than 100 participants that had the possibility to learn more about this new attitude. The participants also experienced that OpenAlps offers small and medium-sized companies across the Alpine space the possibility to try Open Innovation methods. OpenAlps is a EU-funded project, that brings together nine partner organisations from Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia.
If Porsche looks for medical technologists for new impulses and fresh perspectives on its automobile control systems, if Aesculap makes the conscious decision to invite specialists from unrelated industries to an idea workshop or if Hansgrohe has a marketing campaign developed by an internet community on its behalf … then Open Innovation is happening. By presenting examples of this type the ten speakers of the OpenAlps Launch Conference demonstrated that innovative companies should look more often beyond their own boundaries to utilise the knowledge of external idea and solution providers.
Those thoughts were particularly promoted by Dr. Sabine Brunswicker of the Stuttgart Fraunhofer Institute for Work Management and Organisation (IAO): “Openness pays off – also for small and medium-sized companies.” When on the search for technical or other solutions outside the own company boundaries it is very likely to come across innovative and promising ideas. “Leading companies are aware of the fact that they cannot do everything themselves”, said the Open Innovation expert. Sabine Brunswicker encouraged the participants to build on the positive experiences gained by large companies. Procter & Gamble had increased the productivity of its research and development departments by 60 per cent. The German chemical group Henkel had saved 3980 development hours by initiating open design competitions.
CCI project manager Melanie John and Bernhard Lehofer of Innovation and Technology Transfer Salzburg informed about the targets of the OpenAlps project: Ten partner organisations from six countries of the Alpine Space aim at anchoring the idea of Open Innovation at small and medium-sized companies to boost their willingness to cooperate with external partners. For this purpose the project consortium will establish a comprehensive range of Open Innovation services, trainings and fora and create a web-based Open Innovation platform. The online platform will be launched at the end of the year. This free of charge service will enable small and medium-sized companies to start idea competitions and development challenges and to search for suitable partners for joint development projects.
Already implemented models showcase the potential and benefits
How Open Innovation works in practice explained, amongst others, Dr. Alfred Niederberger of the Synthes Group. The medical technology company runs a high-tech innovation workshop in Salzburg. “We bring development closer to the customer”, said Dr. Niederberger. Surgeons are invited to visit the workshop anytime to discuss their ideas and technical problems with the medical technologists. Samples or prototypes are produced immediately according to the required specifications and can be checked straight away. This way, Synthes is able to reduce development hours for innovative implants considerably.
Tuttlingen-based Aesculap AG, too, focuses on intensive communication and interaction with its customers to identify needs and to gain ideas for product innovation directly from clinical practice. Dr. Dirk Friedrich explained how Aesculap uses different Open Innovation methods to integrate its customers actively in the innovation process of medical technology.
Sandra Woerner of Hansgrohe AG Switzerland illustrated how the company managed to run an impressive three-week marketing campaign by initiating an idea and design competition via the Open Innovation platform Jovoto. “This opened completely new lines of thoughts”, reported Sandra Woerner happily. On the other hand, she pointed out, it was also important to keep in mind that crowdsourcing offers no guarantee of success and that planning and control still remain indispensable requirements.
Open Innovation methods can also contribute to protect companies from launching products bound to fail on the market as Oliver Wiesener from the Munich-based Wiesener Group pointed out. During a lead user workshop the company had introduced a foil printing process for light sources to find possible applications for this innovation within an interdisciplinary round of customers, researchers and external experts. “The result was negative. We found out that there is no market for this innovation”, said Oliver Wiesener.
As Melanie John, OpenAlps Project leader explains, "Open Innovation demands sophisticated strategies and a professional management. Companies which want to make use of Open Innovation methods need to define the set task precisely and externalise only peripheral issues of a new development. For despite all openness, core competencies need to be protected."
More info: www.open-alps.eu
Source: Open Alps Consortium
About OpenAlps: The mission of OpenAlps is to bring Open Innovation in SMEs, R&D centres and regional governments. Ten partners from six different European countries are involved in the project with the overall aim to support SMEs in their innovation processes with external partners. OpenAlps is part of EU's Alpine Space Programme and is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the participating states. The project has a budget of 2.9 million € and a duration of 3 years (July 2011 - June 2014).