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How to Succeed at Open Innovation

3 Sep, 2014

Open innovation

Today we launchShaping the Future of Open Innovation: A practical guide for life sciences organisations”, a new resource created by a collaboration led by the Wellcome Trust, the Centre for the Advancement of Sustainable Medical Innovation (CASMI) and Kinapse. Rosie Pigott from CASMI, a Wellcome Trust seed funded initiative to accelerate the process of medical translation from bench to bedside, shares her top tips on open innovation.

“No single group can solve all the problems in this space. We need to work together in partnership.” Dr Gustavo Stolovitzky, Director, DREAM Project

In this increasingly open, collaborative, problem-solving world, open innovation has rapidly become accepted as standard practice in many areas of life sciences. In creating this report, we explored a selection of open innovation models that have emerged over recent decades and collated the different experiences and lessons-learned from partners, to feed into a practical tool kit that we could share.

Our definition of what ‘open’ means in this context was fairly broad and we examined a wide range of open innovation ‘experiments’ – from academic–industry collaborations to crowdsourcing.

For this project, we defined open innovation as the process of innovating with others for shared risk and reward in order to create new products, processes or ideas that could not otherwise have been achieved alone, or enabling them to be achieved more quickly, cheaply or efficiently.

We interviewed a number of experts from diverse organisations, and it soon became clear that there is no one-size-fits-all model for succeeding at open innovation. Project partners need to be open-minded about one another’s cultures, capabilities and constraints, and must allow sufficient room to tailor a partnership model that takes these factors into account.

A number themes that came out of the discussions and we’ve created a list of the top 15 strategies for establishing a successful open innovation initiative.

Ensure clear definitions
Clearly define the opportunities and potential benefits and risks for partners from the start. It is also important to consider conflicts of interest for each partner. Establish what everyone understands ‘open’ to mean in the context of the project. Partners should ensure that a mutually agreed and clear understanding exists and that this is expressed in writing before proceeding.

Working_Together_Teamwork_Puzzle_ConceptAlign objectives
Ensure that you align all partners’ goals at the outset. Each party must unambiguously agree the objectives of the collaboration in writing, including any specific milestone targets to be achieved during the lifespan of the collaboration and what the ultimate outcomes should be. It may be that the objectives don’t align completely – at this point partners should consider whether a collaboration is really the most appropriate way to achieve their goals.

Be strategic
Don’t be opportunistic about engaging in open innovation. Only commit if it fits with strategic priorities and if the objectives are truly harmonised.

Clearly divide outputs
Think through what the outputs will be and how value will be distributed among partners throughout the project.

Appreciate partner expertise
Make the most of the diversity of experience and expertise within the partnership. Be sure to appreciate areas of knowledge and skill and commit quality resources.

Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Communication is key to maintaining openness and transparency, both internally and externally.

Don’t overlook issues of intellectual property (IP)
Set clear IP ownership policies and strategies establishing who will own any resulting IP rights and agree on what can be made public. Even in the most straightforward model where no IP will be claimed and all results are released to the public domain, the IP policy should be expressly and clearly agreed between the parties at the outset. 

Define commercial benefit
Be clear about what the commercial benefit of the project could be, and how it will be captured and who by.

Create end-of-project guidelines
Be clear about what will happen at the end of the project. How will it wind-down? Who owns what?

Impartial environments
Have a neutral convener if this will facilitate decision-making.

Open minded

Find ‘open’-minded people
Invest in building the right team to manage projects and relationships effectively.

Define responsibilities
Clearly define the roles of each partner and understand that there are expectations for every side to contribute.

A robust review process will help to keep the project on track and define the points where go/no-go decisions need to be made.

Be flexible
Maintain a level of flexibility in budgeting and ways of working and have the ability to evolve.

Work together
Open innovation involves collaboration. Listening to one another and sharing ideas is important. Don’t just try to tell partners what to do!

The boundaries of open innovation are continually progressing. The demand for open access research outputs is also intensifying, and crowdfunding is a growing phenomenon in the life sciences sector. We are moving towards a more open world, which organisations must engage in to survive. As social and economic pressures make the healthcare landscape more demanding for all, open innovation represents a major tool for the creation of a more productive and sustainable ecosystem.

Author Rosie Pigott works at CASMI, you can find out more about their work on their website, and read the full report Shaping the Future of Open Innovation: A practical guide for life sciences organisations.

Image credits: Working together – Lumaxart – CC-BY-SA, Open minded – Thinkpublic on Flickr –  CC-BY-ND

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