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Open Innovation – bringing the outside in

Corporates that want to stay ahead of their market, can’t just rely on own internal knowledge and resources. Collaboration across the boundaries of their own organisation is crucial to drive innovation. Open innovation, bringing the outside in, watching and interacting with the surrounding Innovation ecosystem allow to build situational awareness. Collaboration with innovators usually leads to the discovery of totally new concepts, ideas and technologies.

Our CEO and co-founder, Ingrid Willems, has always seen the strengths of open innovation and has tried to bring them into the operation of DataScouts. She discusses in the following article what these strengths mean and how open innovation can help your firm excel in a competitive environment.

Open innovation tactics

In recent years, I have seen a wide range of “Open Innovation” tactics emerging. There is no single solution to innovation. Large companies are opting for a diversified open Innovation policy, that is built around different instruments to stimulate bringing the outside-in:

  • Cooperation with start-ups is particularly interesting for companies that are looking for accelerating their digital transformation. Organising start-up challenges or pitching sessions allows to find start-ups that are relevant for their own business. Collaborating with start-ups allows corporates to gain access to know-how about new technologies. They learn to experiment rapid implementation of innovations through collaboration with start-ups.
  • Collaboration with incubators and accelerators provides corporates the ability to outsource their open innovation activities. Acceleration programmes create the optimal conditions for moving closer to innovation. Through these collaborations, corporates gain access to external resources for scouting of and co-creating with start-ups.
  • Organising hackathons is a great booster of creativity. It allows corporates to experience the power of cross-disciplinary collaboration. Hackathons are limited in time, facilitating in parallel several diverse teams to work intensively on an innovation with the goal to create a prototype. The most viable ideas will be selected to elaborate further after the hackathon.
  • Bringing the outside in requires to establish the tools and processes to systematically watch the innovation space. Scout for innovators, technology providers or startups allow corporates to drive the innovation roadmap.
  • If companies don’t want to bring startups in-house, they can go out into the world. Corporate leaders organise innovation missions. They meet startups and businesses that they think are leading the way in a particular market or technology. The team will find inspiration to take back and share with their colleagues.
  • Disruptive innovation doesn’t necessarily happen around corporate headquarters. Corporations therefore establish “antennas” for (open) innovation in regions where things are happening, such as in Silicon Valley, Tel-Aviv or Singapore. These antenna offices allow corporates to emerge into the local ecosystem. They host events and interact with local partners and startups.
  • Corporate venturing allows corporates to fully understand innovation by having a stake in companies doing what they are interested in. Investing in startups help companies understand the space startups are in. They stay updated and eventually can guide development of a technology, product, or service.

What is Open innovation?

If corporates want to innovate products, services, business models or processes effectively, they can’t just rely on internal knowledge and resources. A separate and isolated R&D department is no longer sufficient. On the contrary, the boundaries of knowledge and creativity must be pushed.


Open Innovation embraces the outside-in approach, opening the innovation process to external stakeholders. Through open innovation initiatives corporates get access to market information, new ideas, innovative solutions, emerging technologies and creative individuals. The combination of internal R&D with open innovation provides a pathway to sustainable innovation resulting in tangible business results.

Organizations should not hesitate to leverage the added value of people from outside to accelerate their innovation activities. Openness and collaboration have always been a necessity for small companies to stay agile and move fast. Nowadays large multinationals actively invest in building their innovation ecosystem, a network of diverse players eager to collaborate and share knowledge.

What are the benefits of Open Innovation?

The benefits of open innovation, bringing the outside in are hard to deny. Collaboration usually leads to the discovery of totally new concepts, ideas and technologies. Partnerships allow to experiment by using existing technology of other organisations. By calling on partners with additional expertise companies can drastically shorten development time. Moreover, they share the costs if they collaborate with other companies. If not, they fail fast and they fail cheap.

Contributing to an innovation community and having connections with various external actors (such as suppliers, customers, universities and startups,…) results in following benefits:

  • opportunity to work with exciting startups to speed up digital transformation
  • collaboration with innovators usually leads to the discovery of totally new concepts, ideas and technologies
  • joining forces with like-minded entrepreneurs, researchers and technology providers allows to achieve innovation that you can never handle alone
  • higher accuracy in market research and trend analysiscross-innovation with individuals and organizations outside the industry or sector can lead to entirely innovative ideas
  • access to a wider pool of talent
  • reduced cost of conducting Research and Development
  • faster go to market

There is no single solution to innovation. With the DataScouts platform for Ecosystem Intelligence & Operations, we support companies in applying these benefits of open innovation to build situational awareness and become a frontrunner in their market.