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Brokers and open innovation

The intensification of global competition and innovation and the internationalization of knowledge brings new challenges to businesses, especially SMEs, which means that companies are increasingly to open their processes for innovation and collaboration with external partners are they other companies, customers, universities, etc.

This path or this trend has provoked an interaction in communities of innovation, especially with the use of social networks and that led to the emergence of new roles in open innovation as intermediaries.

Innovation intermediaries have been structured as an emerging form of broker that coordinates the flow of innovation applications and solutions through sources of knowledge and creativity, not located in the ecosystem of the organizations and that were hitherto unknown. 

They can provide advice on management to internalize and integrate contributions from external sources.

However these intermediaries will only fulfill its mission leaders of the partner organizations are themselves promoters, and especially if there is an informal cooperation across organizational and functional boundaries.

In my professional experience, for some years, I dealt with brokers in the insurance business, and although with different characteristics I recognize this role as instrumental in the implementation of projects.

In open innovation exist borders although porous that require a management facilitator of flows of knowledge and experiences. Help measure their ability to mobilize internal and external resources in search of solutions can be a competitive differentiator for organizations.

Some examples:

NineSigma created a diagnostic tool, Open Innovation Scorecard, which helps companies identify their potential for innovation.

Bluenove created, among other services, a map of open innovation enabling agents in open innovation, with various roles and throughout the world.

In recent years, intermediaries, as YourEncore, IdeaConnection, InnoCentive and others had a sharp growth in the markets, due to the need to create ways to connect to and communicate with other companies, organizations and individuals.

The expected role of intermediaries is creating value for businesses, and this value comes through the creation of points of entry and establishment of connections or detection of existing weaknesses in technological capability or knowledge.

Intermediaries may still create value through advice on an appropriate business model or on the evaluation of external opportunities in open innovation.

To advice about the possibilities of licensing and sharing or acquisition of IP are also ways, that the intermediaries present, to create value for businesses.

However the role of intermediaries is only possible within a framework of balance internal and external forces in order to avoid unnecessary conflicts.

Recently, Atos Consulting carried out a large-scale survey among firms in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Spain in order to assess the current state of open innovation within firms. The survey measured four elements: the extent to which open innovation is incorporated in the innovation strategy; the use of external knowledge inside the firm (outside-in); the extent to which internal knowledge is monetized outside the firm (inside-out); and the open innovation mindset of the company.

The results of this particular study show that open innovation is not yet widely practiced; some organizations have implemented many open innovation techniques, whereas others have barely started doing this. The open innovation mindset of firms is the least developed element. In addition, few companies use processes for bringing internal knowledge outside. Firms seem to be much more comfortable sourcing external knowledge than they are sharing their own knowledge with others”.

These results clearly point to the need to change the mindset of companies, which can be done through evangelization of open innovation.

On the other side of the border are partners who also benefit from the role played by intermediaries and this benefit, among other benefits, is reflected in the applicability of creations or discoveries in similar problems but of greatest expression on the market or leveraging existing applications on the market but unknown.

However, it is important that, to obtain an income from the integration of external knowledge, companies ensure that their collaboration with open innovation intermediaries fits into a comprehensive innovation strategy. 

It is also important that intermediaries play their role as mediators and facilitators of common will not misunderstand the purpose aligned in open innovation partners. 

The value created should be the desired value for all stakeholders in the process of open innovation.

Companies that will profit from open innovation will be those that adapt their processes, their organizational structure and develop the culture of innovation aligned with the new opportunities suggested by intermediation.

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