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On being an innovation partner

Published 01/06/2012 by Marie-Claude Béland

Innovation is all about possibilities: research and development possibilities, market possibilities, and the possible interfaces that can exist between them. Being a great innovation partner is about finding efficient pathways to those untapped interfaces where successful solutions can be implemented. The wise choice, however, is not always obvious when complexity and constraints come into the mix.

Commercializing R&D results is one of the most interesting and rewarding pursuits I can think of. You have to know about science and technology aspects like material properties, production processes and the sustainability potential of it all. You also have to understand how businesses operate, who the decision makers are when it comes to implementing new solutions, and identify the critical relationships between different actors in a value chain.

As no single individual can be expected to know both the R&D and the business specifics for all possible potential markets, you have to organize yourself to be able to handle new opportunities as they appear. How? Internally, you set up a multi-disciplinary team that includes perspectives from different sciences, different processes, and different levels of experience. Externally, you build a multi-stakeholder consortium having organizations with similar needs but that have been coming at them from different perspectives. Easy? No. Worth it? Absolutely! Leading a team with clever and smart people who have a deep understanding of the R&D issues necessary to commercialize results is a challenge. The key here is to have it be self-organizing, but I digress... Hosting a multi-stakeholder workshop with high-level people from organizations you are not familiar with can be intimidating. But if you've done your homework, at that first encounter, magic happens. Intimidation dissipates when you notice the individuals around the table all think they are the odd one out because they have never worked this way either. When every one realizes how they will be able to influence the final outcome and sees the common ground that is shared, synergies are created and innovation is born. What results is often much greater than the idea you started off with.

Then all that is left is to roll up your sleeves and get the job done. Piece of cake if the right people are in place, right? Finding efficient pathways to those untapped interfaces between R&D results and market needs: Here lies the future for a great innovation partner!


Marie Claude Beland
Marie-Claude Béland works in the group Appearance and Usability at Innventia.

Marie-Claude Béland
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