RocketSpace is an established ecosystem connector working together with corporations, startups, and investors to identify opportunities and foster innovation. As a consultant at RocketSpace, I work to identify pain areas and provide cross-industry, cross-technology solutions. For example, I worked with a leading food manufacturer, Griffith Foods, to build out its healthy offerings to meet consumer demand and increase revenue. Leveraging our food and agriculture community, the team identified Regrained, a startup with technology that upcycles grain. This partnership resulted not only in $2.5M in funding for Regrained, but also expanded Griffith Foods healthy foods product portfolio to drive topline revenue.
Most of the time, open innovation managers solely focus on finding partners. However, it is also vital to ensure that corporates are seen and known within these innovation ecosystems. To be seen as a forward-thinking, progressive organization results in the attraction of the right people and the right opportunities. All deeply connected organizations have clear value propositions for each partner, such as capital, sponsorship, pilot opportunities, co-development, or mentorship.
This type of connection requires that companies understand how the market and technology will evolve as well as prepare for, or drive, change. In response, organizations are pushing to move out of traditional, expensive R&D processes such as stage-gate, which historically has slow product development, lower risk and lower value projects, and a poor innovative environment. This results in an inability to respond effectively to today’s fast-paced and competitive market.
So, how does a corporate innovator nurture an innovation ecosystem to increase new opportunities?
4 Steps to Form an Innovation Network
1. Understand + Define Your Needs
An important first step to building an innovation ecosystem is to understand where your organization falls on the innovation maturity scale. Having a deep sense of this will allow you to better recognize opportunity areas and gaps. Take the Corporate Innovation Assessment.
This assessment will help you determine what your organization needs. What are you trying to achieve by engaging with external stakeholders? What are your priorities? Is it to find talent, inspire and boost your team with new ideas, understand trends, attract and identify startups, or develop suppliers?
Next, pinpoint the most influential stakeholders in your industry and adjacent industries. Consider each group noting that each has a very different role in making innovation happen.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What partners are essential to support your innovation goals? Since ecosystems are very complex, it is vital to narrow down where your company wants to drive its innovation roadmap before building relevant partnerships.
- What is your value proposition for each group? Organizations should have a clear understanding of what they can give in exchange and what types of partners align with these offerings (e.g, sponsorship, validation, mentorship, money, or commercial partnerships).
2. Map Your Innovation Ecosystem
Based on your goals, offerings, and key stakeholder groups, start mapping your current relationships, including all groups mentioned above and any success stories.
After establishing your current environment, start mapping future partners that align with your goals.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What is your lowest hanging fruit — potential partners who can help you with your open innovation strategy?
- What incentives can you provide to get partners on board to test and launch new ideas?
3. Plan + Prioritize
Plan how you will attract, engage, and retain relationships with each of the key groups. That could look like participating in an accelerator program, hosting an innovation event, or creating a corporate venture capital arm. Before launching these initiatives, it is critical to take note of pitfalls that cause corporate accelerators to fail, and, also, the must-haves for corporate venture capital.
After defining your engagement strategy, estimate how much you can benefit from each partnership to justify your budget allocation. Then, set the required resources. These can originate from different departments: HR, Marketing, Legal, R&D, or Innovation.
During this step, define a short and long term focus to prioritize. Double-check that your key partners align with your overall strategy.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What is the expected outcome for your organization? For your partners?
- What is the time frame for the engagement?
- How will you measure success?
Building relationships and, especially, maintaining them is effort-intensive. Start small, set basic KPIs, learn from these engagements, and track how each is impacting your defined goals.
Consider these starting points:
- Get exposure to industry technologies and trends through an accelerator such as TERRA, The Food + Ag Tech Accelerator
- Attend conferences such as The Economist's Innovation Summit
- Take an innovation tour with a company such as Real Change
Building the Right Ecosystem for Innovation
At RocketSpace, we support organizations to create their innovation ecosystems by helping them to strategize, execute, and access top global ecosystems located in Silicon Valley and Europe. Interested in learning about corporate innovation? Check out our Corporate Innovation Playbook or access these additional resources:
- How Collaborative Platforms and Ecosystems are Changing Innovation
- The World’s Top Innovation Hubs to Watch in 2019
- How Can Open Innovation Reduce Costs of Innovation?
- 16 Examples of Open Innovation - What Can We Learn From Them?
- The Emerging Art Of Ecosystem Management
- Why Cultivating Your Innovation Ecosystem is Worth the Work
- A Fail-proof Innovation Strategy in 3 Steps