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To secure economic success and strengthen their market position, companies make a significant effort to incorporate new technologies and techniques. But the demands on innovation management have changed in recent years. In the classic understanding, in-house R&D departments are the main source of innovation. An opening to the outside to solve challenges or better meet the increased demands has changed this traditional understanding.
Open innovation gives businesses and organisations the ability to access new ideas for new products and services while reducing the risks, costs and time to market that usually come along with entering novel business paths. With open innovation management, companies still manage and assess their innovation process but ideas can come from external as well as internal sources and can enter the innovation process at any stage. This approach ensures the company is as receptive to ideas as possible, at all stages of the innovation process, without losing the possibility of assessing them properly and managing their development. However, the exchange of knowledge and the networking of expertise from open innovation usually do not mean free access to a company’s knowledge and technology. Nevertheless, it can lead to new ideas and approaches for innovative solutions. In 2013, NASA, for example, launched an open call for a complex algorithm for power optimisation for the solar panels on the International Space Station (ISS). Awards such as the NASA ISS-Longeron Challenge have the potential to serve as a huge and very cost-efficient source of solutions for explicit challenges, such as the improved operation of solar arrays.
Open innovation aims to benefit both partners. Small companies, start-ups, universities and entrepreneurs share their knowledge for several reasons: The co-operation, especially with large and well-established companies, considerably increases chances to realise ideas, it facilitates access to new market sectors, and it provides access to potential customers. Visionaries who seek to work with other companies or institutions on fully exploiting the potential of their innovation meet with a number of options. The following formats are commonly used to support the open innovation process:
Common Open Innovation Models
In practice, open innovation can take the form of technology development projects such as the DLR working with SKITH – the 2016 INNOspace Masters overall winner – on a wireless satellite infrastructure, through to innovation competitions such as the INNOspace Masters, or crowdsourcing portals e.g. the space crowdinvesting platform SpaceStarters.
Additionally, open innovation incorporates another great source of potential: technology transfer as an intersectoral transfer of expertise. In general, technology transfer not only covers the technology transfer from academia to industry, but also includes know-how exchange between different industry sectors.
The INNOspace Masters is a means to exploit this cross-industry potential in the context of technology and knowledge transfer from academia, research, students, startups, SMEs, and science. The innovation competition seeks basic research or new business ideas for commercialisation. Such ideas can stem from both sides, either as “spin-ins” (from non-space into a space sector) or “spin-offs” (from space sectors into non-space). They are then further developed with the respective partner DLR, Airbus, OHB or DB Netz AG.
Almost every INNOspace Masters partner provides its own technology transfer platform:
In fact, open innovation is not only a substitute for closed innovation, but complementary. The innovation activities of external sources such as universities or other companies should be seen as an add-on to a company’s own innovation processes and also as a great opportunity for innovators. The INNOspace Masters competition is the perfect platform to boost your innovation project by gaining some extra publicity and the chance to cooperate with well-established companies.