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  • Writer's pictureVentureBlick

What Is An Open Innovation Search, And Should You Run One?

Updated: May 30

VentureBlick open innovation search
VentureBlick's last open innovation search saw over 800 startup applicants – all narrowly specialised in healthcare

Innovations are typically developed in silos as firms seek to protect their intellectual properties, especially before patents are filed. In contrast, an open innovation search takes a collaborative approach to the same work to deliver outsized benefits.

In the last 15 years, open innovation searches have grown in popularity with public and private organisations alike. They include US space agency NASA, British multinational Diageo, and the Qatar Research, Development and Innovation Council. Similarly, the healthcare industry has seen companies like Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, and Samsung hosting their own open innovation searches.

Far from being just a tool for the big boys, however, open innovation searches can also benefit smaller corporations and agencies – the key lies in identifying the host’s specific requirements, then tailoring the campaign accordingly.

Open Innovation: A Primer 

Open innovation was conceived as a new paradigm to how research and development is conducted. The idea here is for an organisation to leverage external knowledge and expertise when developing its solutions. Why reinvent the wheel when you can license its design and save on R&D, or enter a joint venture and co-develop it into something more?

open innovation

An open innovation search is an extension of this. Also known as an open innovation call/challenge, it works like an open tender to crowdsource for ideas and/or solutions to a specific problem. A hospital may, for instance, run a search for an analytics platform to augment its patient data management system. Instead of targeting specific issues, open innovation searches can be thematic too. Such calls are done either to address an organisation’s broader requirements, or to simply foster greater innovation within the ecosystem.

The Benefits Of An Open Innovation Search 

For organisations looking to solve specific issues, an open innovation search can be preferable to developing an in-house solution or just browsing what is on the market. First, it casts a wider net than would be possible with just research alone. Since applicants are self-selected, their openness to collaboration is also guaranteed, so the process of shortlisting potential solutions is more efficient. What’s more, the host of an open innovation search can compare different offers and pick the most suitable one, or even work with multiple synergistic applicants simultaneously. These factors contribute heavily towards developing/acquiring the best possible solution.

Speed is another major advantage; ready-made solutions are faster to implement even if they require modification. Consider Procter & Gamble’s experience in the early 2000s. At that time, the company wanted to introduce potato chips printed with text and graphics under its Pringles brand. An open innovation search uncovered an existing technology that was already available for cakes and cookies, so Procter & Gamble adapted it and released Pringles Print – in less than a year. By the company’s estimates, the same technology would have taken more than 2 years to develop from scratch.

An open innovation search creates other benefits as well, including potential for co-innovation with an applicant, a direct investment into their business, or even an outright acquisition of the entire business. Networking opportunities abound too – an open search can identify partners and technologies that are adjacent to the project, and create a more interconnected ecosystem to drive broader innovation.

Pringles Print open innovation search
Pringles Print, created from a technology from an open innovation search

For innovators like startups with new technologies, answering an open innovation call can open different doors and catalyse growth. An innovator can unlock a new revenue stream by licensing its technology, for instance, or leverage external resources to iterate on it through joint development schemes. These opportunities may then lead to other deals, from additional business elsewhere to investment offers, and even a trade sale. Publicity and exposure can also be expected. These may be intangible, but contribute to raising the innovator’s profile within the industry.

Starting An Open Innovation Search 

Open innovation searches can be executed in-house or with an external partner. The former is usually reserved for large organisations with the reach and resources (plus management approval) to do so. The latter, on the other hand, is done on both public and private platforms, such as the Singapore government’s Open Innovation Network.

VentureBlick’s Open Innovation Search is a product within its suite of advisory services. Like the rest of its business, this service narrowly focuses on the healthcare industry. Thanks to our healthcare-native expertise and global reach, our partners can benefit from some unique advantages in their search for suitable healthcare innovations. One highlight is the external medical validation provided by the VB Advisory Network, which has over 2,500 medical and industry advisors globally. Another is VentureBlick’s proprietary Discovery platform. By hosting open innovation searches on there, we can amplify their reach and impact by leveraging the platform’s network effect.

VB advisor network
Medical validation with a global perspective is possible thanks to the VB Advisory Network

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of our open innovation search is this: we offer customisable scopes complete with end-to-end campaign management, but use a flat fee structure. You can thus expect your search to be tailored to both your budget and requirements.

VentureBlick’s open innovation search service is available for both large corporations, as well as small and medium enterprises. Speak to us to find out more.

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