Blog post

What are the best sources of innovation?

Open innovation is all about obtaining knowledge assets from external sources. It’s a close collaboration with many different stakeholders who are working towards a successful future, using inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate innovation internally. In this way, you can find new business opportunities, sharing risks and resources that create synergies.

It involves strategic and controlled exchanges of information through tools such as crowdsourcing (innovation challenges). To adopt this innovation model, your company must perform dynamic intellectual property management in order to benefit from your own and other stakeholders’ knowledge and innovation. In this blog, you will see the best sources of innovation you should take advantage of.

3 forms of open innovation

There are a variety of ways an idea can be developed, such as in-licensing, out-licensing, cross-licensing, joint R&D agreements, corporate venture capital, in addition to bilateral collaboration, networks and innovation “ecosystems”.

But first, let’s look at 3 different forms of open innovation:

  • INBOUND - use of external sources of innovation within the company, for example, in-license a technology and integrating it into your own technology solution.
  • OUTBOUND - Here companies look to their internal employees for expertise and ideas in order to foster innovation.  Spin-offs can also be developed and commercialized externally, for example, out-licensing.
  • COUPLED INNOVATION PROCESS - A combination of the inbound and outbound models, meaning that internal and external stakeholders collaborate to develop knowledge and solutions. For example, close integration like a joint venture or a more informal relationship such as innovation competitions. Another example is when companies use Subject Matter Experts to coach/mentor public teams with their ideas.

How to foster innovation

When using internal and external sources, processes, products or both may be exposed to collaboration. Innovation sources are relevant to companies because they:

  • Unlock the potential of customer business models
  • Promote in-sourcing and outsourcing technology commercialization
  • Link innovation requests with prospective innovation suppliers
  • Check the external market for possible start-ups
  • Break up customer needs
  • Anticipate and identify technology market
  • Facilitate internal knowledge processing, generation and combination
  • Assist in articulating customer requirements

The following list is made up of different channels that can be made throughout your open innovation process. They generally depend on clear, predictable IP arrangements and can be particularly beneficial for the sharing of tools and software with innovators.

Let’s dig in to the resources and tools available to you and your stakeholders:

  • Innovation Agencies generate knowledge and innovation communities (KICs) to connect education and research to business opportunities. They are multidisciplinary groups that contribute to new business creation, foster collaboration, educate business leaders, reinforce the knowledge triangle and originate economic and societal value.
  • In-house innovation units
  • Specialist innovation units
  • Local innovation teams
  • Arms length or spin off innovation units
  • Living labs
  • Innovation Champions are independent roles that can come from within a company or across companies. They can appoint, modify and insert processes within a company.
  • Social Intrapreneurs
  • Social Entrepreneurs in Residence
  • Innovation scouts
  • User and beneficiary representation on management boards
  • Consultants
  • Hubs are spaces creating mutual support for the collaboration, sharing and learning of ideas and insights. They also share costs like overheads, meeting rooms, etc.
  • Social innovation parks (ecosystems)
  • Innovation hubs
  • Institutions are able to make systematic changes in the world of innovation, connecting social enterprises and projects to institutions and laws.
  • Innovation departments and offices
  • Public innovation agencies
  • Innovation universities and research departments
  • Innovation incubators
  • Sector specialist institutions
  • Dedicated intermediaries
  • Innovation funds
  • Innovation accelerators
  • Innovation learning labs
  • Networks are more informal and can offer many benefits through collaboration.
  • Innovation networks
  • Communities of practice
  • Service collaboratives
  • Platforms can offer many different resources that can help you to solve internal problems.
  • Peer to peer platforms
  • Co-production platforms
  • Platforms for aggregating action/connecting
  • Information platforms (case studies)

You can also research and observe choices made by your competitors (even indirect competitors) in order to learn from them. Real life success and failure stories can help your company to make good decisions.

Sites and communities

Community management plays a huge role in fostering innovation and can help organizations and more specifically teams to find talented innovators who are looking to take part in a submission. Not only that, but they can also keep past innovators, who didn’t get selected in past contests, engaged in your innovation process. Here are a few sites and communities you can connect with to build on your open innovation process:

European Open Innovation Forum

“The European Innovation Forum (EIF) is a new initiative to discover, discuss and share the most effective ways to organize your open innovation pipeline. The EIF is launched by Prof. Henry Chesbrough, in collaboration with ESADE Business School and the Science|Business Innovation Board. The EIF is a by invitation-only gathering of senior innovation managers at leading companies across a variety of industries in Europe.”


“This is an eCommerce Site of Massolution and Research, promoted on and distributed on this site, is produced by massolution™. Massolution is a unique research and advisory firm that is pioneering the use of crowd-solutions in government, institutions and in enterprises.”


“Exnovate, a non-profit platform for companies and knowledge intensive organizations that are practicing open and collaborative innovation. In particular, it serves as a center of excellence for managing open innovation in different types of organizations, including multinationals, SMEs, start-ups, universities, research-labs, governments and public agencies.”

Open Innovation Community

“The Open Innovation Portal serves as an informational resource for thought leaders, consultants, authors, business leaders, academics and others who have a deep interest in open innovation. Created and hosted by the father of open innovation, Henry Chesbrough, Executive Director of the Center for Open Innovation at the Haas School of Business, this forum builds on a site organized by Joel West and is intended to be a digital community where theory is put into practice.”

Collaborative R&D

The collaborative innovation model is a great way for multiple stakeholders to contribute towards the creation and development of new products, services, processes, etc. It is very important to promote an open form of collaboration in order to overcome bureaucracy in your organization and to have access to new partnerships that offer new ideas, capabilities and even systems and software. With collaborative R&D, you will have:

  • Shorter time-to-market with less costs and risk
  • More innovations over the long term
  • Increased quality of products and services
  • Exploitation of new market opportunities
  • More flexibility
  • Improved absorptive capacity and innovation processes
  • Monetized spillovers.

You may choose open innovation for defensive reasons to manage and reduce costs and risks associated with product development. However, collaboration can also be used for offensive reasons, which leverage external innovations and knowledge. It is a continuum of openness, not just a choice between open innovation and closed innovation.

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