is Open Innovation really collaborative?

Can we really talk about collaboration when using Open Innovation?

2018 was a busy year for me as an Open Innovation specialist.  I had the opportunity to speak to more than 170 Innovation / Open Innovation Directors in large groups across Europe.

One of my findings was that in most of these organisations, Open Innovation is either already implemented, or in the process of.

In 2017, we were still explaining the concepts, approaches and outcome of OI.  In 2018, for the majority of people met (more than 80%), Open Innovation is no longer an option.

However, the concerns have changed, and raised new questions :

The new concern we have identify is: how does Open Innovation contribute in creating collaboration ?

We see that interest communities, forums and groups have started to appear with collaboration in mind.

Unfortunately, it is difficult today to get value yet from this places, because some fundamentals are not yet settled.

The broker, a central player

Below, I propose my vision for this question, and what could lead to answers.

In 2003 in the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering publication, J. Rankin and C. Lendzion, introduced the term “Innovation Broker”.

The role of the broker in Open Innovation is essential because it is the central point of its opening. His role is  to provide a solution to the seekers

collaborative open innovation

The role of Broker can be handled externally (external consultants) or in-house (for example by ‘Technology Scouts’).

2018 has shown us the rise of in-house Technology scouting, which involves the creation of new position and skills. Companies like Safran created a dedicated Brokers team

In Open Innovation, multiple collaboration is possible

Internal collaboration (seeker-seeker) 

This collaboration, looks abvious, should be promoted before making “external” innovation. It remains very difficult to implement. because identifying the right internal expert within large groups is challenging. Some companies like Schneiner Electric decided to promote internal expertise within Open Innovation tools

The seeker’s external collaboration

This collaboration now raises many questions about confidentiality, and especially the seeker’s skills in handling negotiations / contracts as he is more appreciated for his technical skills.

This does not exclude the seeker from using collective intelligence for purposes other than problem solving, as shown in Article An example of state-of-the-art using open innovation.

This external collaboration therefore rather goes through the broker whose role is to identify potential partners and to build a collaborative ecosystem around the company’s strategic research programs.

A collaboration between brokers in a group

This kind of collaboration goes through a network or a internal community.

Today, this is the focal point of Open Innovation deployment : How to ensure internal Brokers collaborate together  ? How to ensure that information flows ? How to make sure there is no redundant contacts ? How to make sure that an outside solution is not already found elsewhere in the organization ?

A collaboration between brokers from different companies

This collaboration goes through a bigger cultural change. Whether it is a classic version of “community” or more modern type “Platform”, People are not yet ready for it

Collaborative Open Innovation, soon a reality? 

In conclusion, talking about collaboration between brokers from different companies, while the majority of  the corporate I met are having a hard time getting their teams to collaborate internally, is very futuristic.

Many obstacles prevent brokers from different companies to share information :

  • Confidentiality
  • Intellectual Property Management
  • Cost sharing
  • Divergence of points of view
  • Management support
  • R&D teams involvement

We are slowly getting there. After a first step in 2018 which consisted of moving toward Open Innovation, 2019 will be the milestone  that will bring ( or not!) confidence that OI can delver its promesses.

Collaborative years will probably arrive starting from 2020-2021.

Finally to answer the initial question: No! Open Innovation is not yet collaborative, but with changes in the mindsets, and culture, in the near future collaboration, Broker will play an important rôle in making it happen

By offering a collaborative and connected platform on the industrial and academic world, ideXlab offers the reference solution to innovate.

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An example of state-of-the-art using Open Innovation

How to realize a state-of-the-art ? How can Open Innovation help ? Some simple answers below.

State-of-the-art : definition

A state of the art is the identification of previous knowledge to avoid reinventing. Making a state-of-the-art makes it possible to verify or justify that one produces new knowledge, for a thesis of doctorate or the filing of a patent, for example. The state-of-the-art often also includes the identification of actors – academic or industrial – who are at the origin of knowledge : the “ecosystem”. Better, this ecosystem can be questioned to complete and strengthen the state-of-the-art. This is where Open Innovation comes in. Especially since the algorithms of data mining and classification of Open Innovation platforms allow an acceleration of the research tasks for publications and actors which are often tedious. Let’s have a deeper look to a state-of-the-art example.

State-of-the-art example: dead leaves

For this state-of-the-art example, let’s take a real case treated by an industrial company we know: the problem of fallen leaves on train tracks in autumn. The dead leaves cause a loss of adhesion between the rails and the wheels of the trains, in particular because of the transformation of the leaves at the passage of the trains. The transformed material causes a loss of adhesion between the wheel and the rail which requires lengthening braking distances, and hence disrupts the timing of the trains.

state-of-the-art example

Start with scientific publications

The state-of-the-art will consist of multiple queries using a search engine. We recommend starting with an investigation of scientific publications (which are often richer and more explicit than patent sources). In our example, this exploration begins with a combination of keywords such as “wheel”, “rail”, “leaves”,”adhesion”, which will return publications on these topics.The interesting publications are saved.

Identify keywords & draw a mindmap

The first results of these queries will also make it possible to identify other keywords which are useful to deepen the subject : “friction”, “adhesion enhancer”, “adhesion coefficient”, and will gradually make emerge research themes that we will have to structure (we recommend using a mindmap) : ways to restore adhesion, study of the “black layer” that forms when the wheels crush the fallen leaves, cleaning techniques of leaf layers (by laser heating, by projection of substances, by air jet, etc.) As queries progress, the knowledge deepens, is structured, new publications are saved and added to the right place in the mindmap.

Find Interesting patents

In a second step, the most interesting queries are exploited with patent data sources. In addition to identifying interesting patents in the field, they help better understand the ecosystem. In our case, a very rich university ecosystem (and, to a lesser extent, industrial) has appeared in Europe (Great Britain, Germany, Ukraine, Netherlands, Italy, …), in Asia (China, South Korea, Japan) and in North America (United States, Canada).

Contacting experts: a specific approach to Open Innovation

Finally, to complete the state-of-the-art, the industrial company decided to contact a number of university groups. This step, which is optional, is also specific to an Open Innovation approach. It has the advantage of giving the possibility to talk to specialists in the field who can update the state-of-the-art with the latest and even unpublished research data. Even through a conversation lasting less than an hour, it is possible to identify the important points or to project oneself in the future, which a purely bibliographic search allows only in a very limited way. It’s like going to an annual conference and interviewing the world’s most famous experts !

Contacting experts: asking the right questions

A final remark. In any case, before contacting an expert to refine a state-of-the-art, one must ask himself “why would he/she spend time on my subject ?”. In our case on dead leaves, a large corporation was at the origin of the question and many experts are interested in a dialogue that can lead to collaboration. But other options are possible : a simple exchange of information, the possibility of setting up a joint project, remuneration, etc.

A fair / balanced relationship is one of the keys to succeed in Open Innovation projects.

state-of-the-art example
Illustration : Synthetic representation of the State-of-the-art example on the dead leaves case. Each box contains scientific publications or patents related to the subject.

To know more about using ideXlab platform to establish a state of the art, register to one of our platform demonstration.


[Guide] Which Open Innovation models to consider?

Open Innovation models – which approach to choose for implementation?

Open Innovation becomes a remedy when an answer to a technological or scientific question can not be found internally in a company, when outsourcing the answer or the solution is the best way to go. But what are the best Open Innovation models for finding this external solution?

One can think of many commonly cited practices such as using specialized consultants, setting up a technology watch or scouting team, participating in specialized conferences to meet specialists, using an Open Innovation platform (but which one ?), use his professional social network or simply use his favorite search engine … All these solutions are good, the choice of the most effective solution will depend on the context.

3 questions to take the right decision

To make the right decision, you will have to answer three questions (in this order):

  • Do we really need outside help?
  • Is our budget limited?
  • Are deadlines tight?

If the answer to these questions is yes, you can already consider using an Open Innovation platform !

Do we really need outside help?

If the answer to the first question is negative, it is because internal resources are competent and available. No reason to go elsewhere, except of course if a second opinion or an external alternative can bring value.

Is our budget limited?

If your budget is not limited (second question), the best option is probably to call on a firm of innovation consultants you trust. You will enjoy a quality service, probably fast enough. On the other hand, they protect their know-how (there will be no transfer of skills, so next time it will be necessary to solicit them again) and the cost will be high. Setting up a scouting team can be a good alternative if the volume of projects is important, but it will take time.

Are deadlines tight?

If your budget is limited but you have time (third question), crowdsourcing platforms are interesting: they can generate many options at reasonable cost, sometimes very original ones. However, they also cause internal costs that can become important when sorting and evaluating ideas. And the result is not guaranteed, it is better that your problem is not too complex. Using your social network is also interesting, but for a random result: what is the quality of your network in the topic of interest ? There remains the classic search engines: everything is probably there, but rarely what you are looking for when it comes to innovation, or without guarantee to have come across the best result. They are simply not designed for innovation issues and are likely to be … a waste of time.

Finally, if the answers to all the questions above are positive: need of help, limited budget, tight deadlines, an Open Innovation platform like the one we have developed has important advantages: it will allow a real appropriation of the competency in Open Innovation, guided by the tool. It guarantees a controlled number of results from collective intelligence. And of course it responds to imperatives of limited costs and time, and will be more effective as the number of projects increases.


In this Guide below, you will discover the list of options to consider, their pros and cons, how to choose the best Open Innovation models for your company, and a practical way forward.

open innovation models guide

[Videos] What you need to know about ideXlab’s Open Innovation platform


ideXlab: a worldwide Open Innovation platform providing multiple services


Using an Open Innovation platform can improve your technology intelligence and accelerate innovation within your company by offering access to the right experts and knowledge at any time. ideXlab provides as a multi-service platform the opportunity to leverage the scientific community. On ideXlab’s platform you can find companies, experts and acadamics researchers. You can also analyse hundreds of millions of publications and patents.

Thanks to a dedicated algorithm, the platform allows users to:

  • Search and analyse publications and patents
  • Store your researches and structure them with a simple “map mind” view
  • Find, identify and rank experts relevant to your needs within among 10 million identified individuals or companies.

ideXlab’s platform connects in a simple way technical questions and their solutions. The platform’s cross-industries approach helps define the state-of-the-art of specific scientific, technical, or marketing innovations. Discover in this short video the story of the platform:

open innovation platform video


Create, store and exchange: a unique Open Innovation platform


In this second video you will go more deeply in platform’s functionalities, simplicity and search potential. It shows a use case related to ceramic parts additive manufacturing.

This case illustrate searching for new technology to improve the manufacturing of ceramics parts by using new additive manufacturing techniques or by using substitute materials.

open innovation platform video

The Open Innovation platform’s added value comes from its capability to combine users’ needs within “four S” actions:

  • Search: find any publication, patent or expert linked to subjects your company is interested in, thanks to ideXlab’s search engine
  • Structure: the platform allow to store previous searches and help structure the acquired knowledge
  • Save: thanks to a storage space you can create your own bibliography
  • Share: last but not least, ideXlab’s Open Innovation platform allows you to share and exchange with other colleagues you findings


If you are ready to try Open Innovation and identify the best experts to solve your technical question, you can start now and open a trial account that includes 10 search credits on our website.


[White Paper] 8 crucial dimensions of participative innovation you should know and master


Participative innovation: a powerful lever for value creation


Marking a break with « Closed Innovation » and its long gone paradigm that enabled the multinational companies to internalise their R&D resources and establish their technological supremacy, Open Innovation revolves around a new type of process for companies.

To face today’s professional environment’s metamorphosis, where experts become more mobile every day, universities have an increasing role in the business world, and there are more and more research labs, companies crucially need to turn to alternative innovation processes.

Participative innovation in a company prescribes the use of internal and external resources and knowledge, so as to increase the research and development’s productivity and efficiency.

What are the 8 crucial dimensions of participative innovation to take into account for your company?


The process of participative innovation, as a profound transformation, impacts every level of the company, from its high-level strategy to its funding mechanisms and human resources. Open Innovation first of all deeply modifies the internal objectives of the company. This new shift in its paradigm even transforms the way enterprises deal with their market: they have to define new goals to reach and renew their communication process, externally as well as internally.

But many more questions of various complexity levels arise when a company enters the world of Open Innovation. Those questions include:
Which new resources should I recruit?
What are consequences of participative innovation on my R&D budget?
Which tools are crucial to implement this new model?

In this White Paper, through the explanation of various concepts concerning participative innovation, you will discover the way internal process of a company will be affected by this new lever of growth. You will also understand why and how to renew your organisation, and the way your company’s ecosystem functions as a whole.

download white paper