Lunedì 16 Giugno 2014

Final Conference of the OpenAlps project at the "Haus der Wirtschaft" in Stuttgart

The Open Innovation Day attracted over 120 participants from six European countries. The event, moderated by Dr. Sven Schimpf of the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO Stuttgart, represented an opportunity to deepen interesting issues related to Open Innovation thanks to the participation of top-class international experts, the introduction of Open Innovation pioneers from small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) of the Alpine Space and the presentation of appealing success stories.

In a first keynote Prof. Dr. Johann Füller, founder and CEO Hyve Innovation Community GmbH - Munich, dealt with the question how SMEs can benefit from the intelligence of the crowd and transform it into new products and services. Dr. Michael Heiss, principal for Open Innovation at Siemens AG Austria, presented the lessons learned from the Siemens Smart Grid Innovation Contest, a co-ideation initiative that addressed the B2B market.

Dr. Michael Heiss, Siemens AG Österreich

Presentations available for download:

For detailed information about speakers and background, please download our bilingual Open Innovation Day PDF-brochure.

SMEs too can benefit from the intelligence of the masses

Many big companies already use the intelligence of the masses to develop new products. However, for the majority of small and medium-sized enterprises Open Innovation is not an option yet. Although Open Innovation presents various advantages SMEs approach the topic with a certain reluctance. “Only ten percent of small and medium-sized enterprises engage actively in the opening-up and networking of innovation activities”, explains Dr. Johann Füller, professor at the Department for Strategic Management, Marketing and Tourism at the University of Innsbruck. “Yet, a wide reservoir of knowledge and experience exists outside the companies.” Thus, for instance, online-communities became important innovation drivers. “Ten to 15 percent of community discussions are directly or indirectly related to innovation”, says the expert.

Dr. Johann Füller, Hyve Group Munich

Prof. Dr. Johann Füller, HYVE Group Munich: How can SMEs benefit from the Intelligence of the Masses?[/caption] Companies operating in an Open Innovation environment make active use of external input and cooperate with R&D centres, universities, suppliers, customers, and, occasionally, even competitors. Many times ideas do not only come from external sources but are also openly discussed.

The Italian start-up Formabilio is a consistent advocate of this idea. Via the Internet the small company promotes idea contests for professional and aspiring designers, involving the community of registered users to identify the best furnishing products in terms of innovation, eco friendliness, and appeal. The selected products are manufactured by small Italian companies and marketed online. This benefits all parties involved: Formabilio can offer its customers design at the highest level without the need to design or produce products themselves. Designers benefit from being provided with a platform to present their ideas and are granted a fee of 7% on all sold products. Local manufacturers profit from regular orders and from being given a showcase to present their handicraft skills.

Big companies specifically focus on the intelligence of the masses

Companies like Adidas, VW, Gore or Tchibo benefit already from the intelligence of the masses by involving their customers and so called lead users actively in their product development processes. SMEs, however, have their difficulties with utilizing the existing potential. What are the reasons for this? On the one hand, companies do not like to »simply lay their cards on the table« when it comes to product development. On the other hand, external providers of ideas tend to show restraint. „Many people have good ideas but not all want to discuss them in public“, says Dr. Jürgen Jähnert of the MFG Innovation Agency for IT and Media. Particular in relation to intellectual property rights there was a considerable uncertainty.

Open Innovation day - Questions from the Audience

Quite often SME decision makers would not know what Open Innovation is and how they could benefit from this approach. “In a survey conducted three years ago at the Innovation Forum for Medical Technology in Tuttlingen participants stated that they have no interest in engaging in an Open Innovation project”, remembers Egon Warfia, Division Manager of Innovation and Technology at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Black Forest-Baar-Heuberg (IHK). “However, a database for innovative ideas in medical technology was regarded as highly interesting by the majority of the respondents.”

New Open Innovation platform matches seekers and solvers

Together, the IHK, MFG, and seven other project partners from five European countries made it their goal to spread Open Innovation knowledge to SMEs. Over the past three years the transnationally operating OpenAlps project team inspired more than 10,000 participants from the Alpine region in countless Open Innovation trainings, workshops, fora and dissemination events.

OpenAlüps Panel Discussion

The OpenAlps project team discusses how SMEs can approach Open Innovation and benefit from it.[/caption] With its Open Innovation platform OpenAlps lay the foundation for a genuine technology transfer across national borders. SMEs as well as research and development centres from the Alpine region can register on the platform. Once their account is activated, companies can launch their innovation requests and obtain external solution proposals. At the same time they have the opportunity to respond to published innovation requests. OpenAlps’ international team manages these processes professionally. More precisely, data validation, translations into English, targeted processing of information, and matching support are offered.

SMEs seek innovative solutions to concrete problems

For a widespread take-up of these services it is important to take account of SME specific peculiarities and requirements. “Small or medium-sized enterprises do not necessarily strive for break-through innovations but search for solutions to concrete problems and complex tasks”, says Marco Cantamessa, professor at the Polytechnic University of Turin and OpenAlps project partner. One look at the Open Innovation platform supports his statement. For example, via the platform an Italian SME searches for a method to automatically clean steel moulds from dry concrete. Other requests for proposals are linked to specific applications too.

In order to allow service offers like the OpenAlps platform to become fully effective it also needs political commitment. Ministerialrat Dr. Peter Mendler of the Ministry of Finance and Economics Baden-Wuerttemberg, who accompanied OpenAlps from the outset as a project observer, sees demand indeed for new supportive approaches: “We must ask ourselves: What are the roles and responsibilities of public business promoters related to Open Innovation?“ Answers to that question can be found in the “Policy Recommendation on Open Innovation for the Alpine Region”, a 60 page document elaborated by the OpenAlps project team.

The OpenAlps policy recommendation outlines six priority areas for the promotion of Open Innovation activities:

  • networking/ collaboration/ competition,
  • further education/ personnel/ entrepreneurship,
  • access to financing offers,
  • knowledge transfer,
  • and Open Government.

A study conducted by MFG revealed that Baden-Wuerttemberg is well-positioned in all areas. Only with regard to Open Government could be done more. „In order to enable SMEs to exploit the full potential of Open Innovation it is important to improve the access to funding opportunities and public administration data“, emphasises Valentina Grillea, OpenAlps project manager at MFG.

Networking at the Open Innovation Day