Open Innovation Hubs are emerging and powerful tools for companies to spur innovation and encourage the creation of new products, technologies, and even entirely new businesses. While open innovation hubs are powerful tools, their open, free-form nature can be confusing. Let’s take a close look at open innovation hub best practices in order to better understand their structure, purpose, and how they are used.
What Is An Open Innovation Hub?
The exact definition of open innovation hubs is nebulous. There isn’t one single, universally agreed-upon definition. However, there are some principles and concepts that are common to open innovation hubs.
In general, open innovation hubs try to serve as a gathering space for like-minded individuals interested in technology and innovation. Open innovation hubs may have lab space for people to work on technology or products, as well as logistical or business support for those interested in launching business projects.
Interestingly, open innovation hubs are popping up all over the world, in cities like Toronto, Nairobi, and Tokyo. Different hubs will have different services and resources, but what is common to most of them is that they foster communities of technologically forward-thinking people, providing them with tools they can use to start collaborating and innovating.
Open innovation hubs are similar to research labs and workshops maintained by companies and other innovation managers, but what makes open innovation hubs different from these structures is that they emphasize networking and community-building over traditional workshops and labs. Open innovation hubs try to bring diverse minds and opinions together and allow passionate people to explore their own ideas and pursue their own projects, thereby enabling innovation.
Why Universities And Companies Use Open Innovation Hubs
Open innovation hubs have rapidly expanded their reach over the past decade or so, many created by corporations and universities. Why have these entities chosen to invest heavily in open innovation hubs? The primary reason is that they are necessary to stay competitive and successful in a changing technological and economic landscape.
The old model of education and work meant an individual attended college or trade school and then used their new skills in the workplace. Companies would occasionally run their own workshops and seminars to try and encourage innovation, which meant people generally had two ways of fostering innovation and creation: colleges and workplace training. Research and development talent came from only a few primary channels.
Today, the traditional models of innovation and skill-building have fallen by the wayside, thanks largely to increased internet access and non-traditional sources of education. At the same time, universities and company research projects are becoming more complex and more expensive.
Moreover, traditional models are also fairly rigid, typically relying on a few skilled/knowledgeable professionals who meet in groups to generate innovative ideas. This model is much less flexible than the model used by open innovation hubs because it tries to force innovation and experimentation. Open innovation hubs, on the other hand, aim to create an environment where new ideas and concepts naturally occur. Open innovation hubs are open to drawing in new, non-traditional talent and ideas, which has many benefits in the current market environment.
We’re sure you’ve noticed — technology is advancing faster than ever before. And to stay relevant and competitive means constantly onboarding new people with unique ideas and skillsets. Open innovation hubs let companies and universities attract passionate, creative people who already have the talent and skills they are looking for, instead of investing in long, rigid training courses.
Open innovation hubs encourage people to share their ideas and perspectives, which advances the speed of research and development. OIHs encourage people to let information and ideas flow throughout the inside of the hub and to the outside, as this information flow attracts more new personnel and ideas.
Different Types Of Open Innovation Hubs
Open innovation hubs can come in many different forms. They are typically a loose collection of people dedicated to coming up with new ideas, and this loose structure means that numerous strategies can be employed to curate a hub.
Company accelerators or incubators are types of open innovation hubs focused on strengthening a company or the incubation of a startup. The collaborative atmosphere of an open innovation hub is an excellent environment in which to generate strong, competing ideas for companies. But it is important not to burden the hub with too many constraints. Forcing the hub to align itself with perceived company goals may defeat the entire purpose.
Hackathons and workshops are useful models for those who want to spur innovation but don’t have a hard and fast direction in mind. These environments allow for free-form experimentation and generation of ideas, which the company can then expand on. Workshops and hackathons are used to explore new market areas, new technologies, and entirely new business models.
Open innovation hubs can also be created by business partners looking to create new projects that reach a wider audience. Partnership hub can draw talent and resources from both companies in the partnership, which can accelerate the creation of new technologies and products. Agreements between universities and companies are common, as they not only generate new ideas but they can help university graduates find work.
Successful Open Innovation Hub Models
When looking at how open innovation hubs can be useful, we can study some of the most successful hubs to see how they operate and they types of products successful hub models can create.
One of the most successful hubs is X, which is run by Alphabet, Google’s parent company. This self-described “moonshot factory” has created many notable products and subsidiary companies. For instance, X is responsible for the creation of Waymo, the autonomous vehicles company that is worth billions of dollars.
Another successful model is the Local Motors OIH, which had an Urban Mobility Challenge in 2015, leading the creation of Olli, an autonomous smart bus that could soon be rolled out in Washington DC.
Philips has created an open innovation campus in Eindhoven, Netherlands. The Philips High Tech Campus allows different companies to rent space, receive access to many useful tools, and enjoy a physical workspace that better enables collaboration. There are reportedly over 140 companies working at the campus.
Facebook runs a number of hackathons for employees to attend, with the goal of spurring innovation at the company. Not only regular developers attend hackathons — they are open for attendance by any Facebook employee. The diversity of the types of employees who attend the hackathon helps promote the creation of new products and features. As one example, the 2015 pride flag feature that was introduced to show support for the LGBTQ community was proposed by attendants of the hackathon.
Open Innovation Hub Best Practices
When considering the creation of an open innovation hub, you can get a headstart ensuring its successful by following some best practices. The best open innovation hubs seem to abide by the principles of open innovation generally and practices for hubs specifically.
Define a Charter/Set a Goal
When creating an open innovation hub, it’s important that the charter be given a definition or a goal to strive for. Without some sort of structure, there can be too many possibilities for members, which can create confusion. With a charter, members can always go back to the first principle of the charter’s goal. It is important to remember, however, that charter guidelines should not be too restrictive, lest they stifle innovation.
Use The Right Metrics
Create the right metrics to evaluate the hub’s success. You can’t apply the same metrics to the activities of an open innovation hub as you would a mature, engineering lab. Open innovation hub metrics should consider how the hub generates ideas, the innovation process, and the end results.
Recruit The Right People and Establish The Right Roles
Open innovation hubs are intended to attract a diverse set of people with different talents and skills. The most important talents and skills should be decided upon, but companies should not turn away people lacking some of the desired skill sets, as diversity in skills is a benefit to the environment of open innovation hubs.
Candidates for positions in an open innovation hub should be passionate, self-motivated, questioning, and risk-taking, with members being assigned to roles that suit their talents.
Handling Innovation Processes
The open innovation process should be aligned with other relevant production and innovation processes to be sure that all the relevant people are involved in the process of creation. Participation in the open innovation process should be solicited through a number of different strategies, as what motivates some people to become involved will not motivate others.
In terms of integration between processes, consider concepts like the rollout of the innovation results, the possible creation of new companies or departments, how foundational the results of the project will be to the company’s future.
There is no single, best way to make use of an open innovation hub. The entire point of hub is that they are open to experimentation and innovation, and that they don’t rigidly follow a single model. You will have to find the open innovation hub model that works best for you, something that you can do by following the best practices for open innovation hubs and looking to previously successful hubs for inspiration.
If this article has piqued your interest and you would like to learn more about starting your own open innovation hub, Kambria can help build, accelerate and incubate your business. Depending on your size and needs, we can develop a customized Innovation Lab or provide Startup Incubation. All offerings will infuse your project with the Silicon Valley innovation mindset resulting in a team capable of rapid technological development.
Visit our Open Innovation Hub page and contact us for more information.