Dissecting open innovation

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Posted by APM on 25th Apr 2013

On Wednesday 17th Donal O’Connell gave an engaging presentation to an 30 strong audience on open innovation and intellectual property.

The first part of the presentation covered open innovation with Donal explaining what it is and, as importantly, what it is not.  The driver for it is a fundamental realisation by an organisation that “not all the smart people work for you”.  A quite simple but powerful idea!  The key to open innovation is to develop methods to tap into the smart people that sit outside an organisation in order to enhance that organisation’s capabilities.

This simple concept swiftly opens up questions about when and how to practise open innovation.  In answering these questions it is vitally important to understand what the external party is seeking from a relationship as this will heavily influence the success of any such venture – this is akin to understanding motivations within a negotiation where “win-win” would usually be the best objective but neither party can be certain that it is the other’s goal.

Talking about differing objectives leads nicely into the question of legal agreements and Donal provided an insight into these.  Firstly, they must form an integral part of any collaboration between two parties, whether they be companies or individuals.  Secondly, there are common pitfalls within legal agreements that may be exploited by the larger of the parties to the detriment of the smaller.  Having worked on both sides of this divide, Donal shared with us some of his strategies – on the one hand, for a large business to ensure that a smaller one understands the nuances of what they are signing up to but also for a smaller business or an individual to ask lots of questions.  Legal small print is there for a reason and in most cases it is better to understand the potential consequences of it than not.

Intellectual property is all about valuing intangible assets and protecting them in an appropriate way.  These intangible assets can be categorised as:

• Intellectual capital – the know-how that individuals within an organisation retain within their heads - Extremely valuable, but difficult to manage or to protect.
• Intellectual assets – the know-how that exists in some documentary form (e.g. a process)
• Intellectual property – that which has legal protection

The event concluded with a lively Q&A session that opened up interesting discussions about how the pharmaceutical industry, for example, may learn from others in order to deploy open innovation effectively.


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