Gain access to expertise, funding, talent and facilities
How to partner for innovation
Innovation is now working on a new model. Major players in business and society are actively looking to develop more open partnerships to co-create ideas. SMEs are seen as a dynamic part of this process. They are close to the market, they have a clear focus, they can move fast and they are well placed to generate one of the most precious of all commodities in innovation today – live data.
As an SME, you can still choose to follow the route of classical innovation. Create your own idea, take it to market and fund it yourself. Many within the innovation system are concluding that if you do it all yourself it is too risky, too expensive and too slow. So who might your partners be?
- corporates are opening up their search for innovation by backing early-stage ventures, running competitions and sourcing ideas in the crowd.
- public agencies are seeking to resolve major challenges in society by bringing together networks and teams either to explore the potential in new technologies, such as personalized medicine or space data, or encourage entrepreneurial solutions to old problems like city congestion or support for the elderly
- universities and the research base are now making ‘impact’ one of their top priorities, fast turning themselves into hubs for enterprise through which SMEs can access knowledge, talent, funding and facilities
- closer to the market, a series of ‘catapult’ centres are giving SMEs the opportunity to work closely with primary contractors in improving how they operate
By working through this system, SMEs can create a series of stepping stones to take their ideas forward through grants, credits and other forms of financial support. Even though the money may be slow to arrive or may go directly to one of your partners, you can create a financial model for operating at significantly lower cost.
The other challenge will be, first, to safeguard your own intellectual property and then see how you can actively manage it to start making a return, either in the form of payments from your partners or from any products you create yourself.
So be as clear as you can about what you already own. Then understand each of your partners’ priorities and decide upfront how any results from the partnership are going to be used. You want to avoid any disagreements later and make sure you are in a position to catch the upside.