22 Oct The Case for Open Innovation
The challenges related to COVID-19 continue to present itself in many ways. As we continue to deal with them, in this blog post, we want to present a case for open innovation as one of the ways forward to combat these new challenges.
The Challenges of COVID-19
In 2020, COVID-19 has had a definitive impact on almost every aspect of our lives. It continues to disrupt and throw new challenges every day. We have especially noticed this in sectors that we work in:
- Waste management strategies have been disturbed significantly with the rampant use of single-use plastics in the form of personal protection equipment.
- Access to healthcare has reduced owing to risks related to COVID transmission and lockdown rules all over the world. Healthcare providers have embraced telemedicine, which brings to the fore questions of infrastructure availability.
- The tourism sector in most parts of the world has been at a standstill for a while. A few countries are slowly opening up; however, we anticipate this to be a slow recovery.
- Access to education has also changed, as most educational institutions continue to stay closed and have shifted to classes online.
The Need for Open Innovation
In times of crisis, open innovation offers an effective way to find scalable solutions. COVID-19 is throwing unprecedented challenges that require an entirely new approach to building solutions. Every day, it becomes more apparent that collaboration and learning from each other is the way forward.
Some organisations have already accepted this reality, and have started setting an example towards building partnerships for long-term solutions. In March 2020, Siemens opened its additive manufacturing network for the production of medical equipment. Doctors, hospitals and organizations in need of medical devices, and designers and service providers with medically certified printing capacities could register for free access to the Siemens Additive Manufacturing Network.
Innovation partnerships give better and quicker results and offer opportunities for new long-term partnerships that could go a long way in creating new solutions for better societal impact.
One form of embracing open innovation is by corporations opening their doors to startups and social enterprises in developing countries. The benefits of a partnership like this flow two ways. A paper by the World Economic Forum insists that the positive impacts of the corporate-startup collaboration include a scalable customer base, riskless internationalization, improved innovation and disruption, and staying on top of market developments. While innovators have ideas to address challenges, multinational corporations could provide access to their R&D labs and their platform to scale these solutions. The Unilever Foundry is one such idea where Unilever provides a platform for partnering with startups to accelerate innovation.
Corporate- Startup Collaboration: A Two-way Street
Ennovent’s project in collaboration with Veolia India – Pop Up India – is an example of how a corporate-startup partnership benefits both. This one-year long engagement helped Veolia to successfully co-create two business solutions with startups and integrated them into its value chain. Through the partnership, Veolia was able to address critical challenges in the Indian waste and water sectors.
“What we did here is not philanthropy – it is a business case for Veolia”, says Peter Scheuch, founder, Ennovent. “In a partnership like this, often the multinational corporation gets a glimpse into a new market they don’t know about. Working with a social impact startup is a better value proposition for them since it allows them to build a sustainable integrated value chain”, he adds.
Hasiru Dala Innovations was one of Veolia’s partners in the Pop Up 1.0, launched in 2018. Shekar Prabhakar, co-founder, and CEO, Hasiru Dala Innovations says, “With Pop Up 1.0, we were able to access Veolia’s reach and their expertise in setting up and scaling large scale facilities so that collection and processing of waste can come up to world-class standards in India.”
However, a partnership like this also has its share of risks. “The uneven size of the partners could lead to the partnership itself being unequal. It takes a while for both the parties to understand that while knowing that monetary capital might be flowing one way, knowledge flows both ways”, says Chandrakant Komaragiri, Country Head – India, Ennovent. He also explains that the ways and methods of working in a startup are different from that of an MNC. According to him, the cultural differences and power structures could make it a little tough to navigate initially.
Managing the Risks
With our experience in working on impact projects, and in developing Pop Up India, we offer tailored venture projects to facilitate collaborative open innovation between startups and multinational corporations. “Our role involves understanding and translating the language on both sides and facilitating a healthy conversation”, says Chandrakanth. “If the right thing does not get communicated, the partnership falls apart”, he adds.
While the MoU is getting drafted, we make sure that we find a common ground for the partnership and that everyone’s expectations are met. “Apart from being facilitators, we also bring our catalysation expertise to the partnership”, adds Peter. “We understand how to take a business idea to market”, he adds. Peter goes on to explain that Ennovent’s local capacity and global expertise is the missing piece that solves this partnership puzzle.