[White Paper] Open innovation in business: incompatible with Intellectual Property?


In an economy of knowledge, it seems essential to be able to protect our industrial properties. Intellectual Property titles are the key for a company’s development and constitute a shield in case of industrial conflict. On the other hand Open Innovation seems to rely on a sharing and exchange, which threatens the company’s safety…

Intellectual Property Rights and Open Innovation in business: from exclusivity to complementarity?

Intellectual Property, and particularly the industrial one, has many advantages, including the submission of patents to protect your creations. As the Worldwide Intellectual Property Organization says, the patents enable your business to:

Establish exclusive rights allowing your company to use this innovation during 20 years, but also to concede or sell this license to a third legal entity
Take a stronger position on the market and a give a power of negotiation by reducing the competition on this market and concluding more cross-licensing agreements
Increase the reputation of your company, as it will be recognized for its ability to innovate and develop new products or services

Open Innovation in my company: it works!


Innovating in business thanks to Open Innovation is easy if you accept its notion of sharing. Nowadays, one notices an innovation freeze in new technologies due to an excessive manipulation of Intellectual Property. Indeed, the WIPO observed in 2015 a record in terms of patent submissions with 2.9 millions handing-in.

As a company, Open Innovation system raises many questions, such as :
How can I protect my business and products without Intellectual Property titles?
Is my company weakened when sharing a license or an Intellectual Property title?

Discover in this White Paper how Open Innovation platforms can answer your questions thanks to an anonymous process, avoiding risks of knowledge loss. Companies that want to launch their products more quickly on the market can’t rely on their own property of their internal resources anymore. On the contrary, they must accumulate opportunities!

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[Infographic] What is Open Innovation?


” We need to be innovative in the area of innovation itself ”
John Seely Brown

Open Innovation, “The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology”
Henry W. Chesbrough

Open Innovation is a concept that turns our traditional idea of innovation upside down. According to John Seely Brown, Director Emeritus at the Palo Alto Research Center, we need to go further into invention by “innovating innovation“. The way of innovating needs to be challenged. More than just a new creation, innovation is an invention efficiently brought to a market.

Open innovation: when collaboration leads to better creation


With the idea of innovation being brought to a specific market, companies can no longer work without Open innovation if they are eager to go further into creation. Indeed, each company can benefit from external intelligence and contributions, whether they are coming from academics, researchers  or experts in a leading-edge technology field. Collaboration with outsiders can help your company renew its model and develop disruptive products or services.

How does Open Innovation work?


Thanks to Open Innovation, working in a sector with many actors, whether they belong to universities or businesses, is no longer a problem since they can help you grow. But how can your company ensure a successful transition from Closed Innovation paradigm to Open Innovation’s one?

Find out with this infographic what are the advantages of Open Innovation for your company, whether your are trying to solve issues or working on new technologies. You will also discover the 9 steps to insure a lasting transition to an Open Innovation model. With ideas coming from inside and outside, your business will have the ability to develop new business models for existing products.


Go further and discover 6 examples of Open Innovation in practice in our ebook.

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Bibliography and Innovation

Bibliography and Innovation

The concept of bibliography seems reserved for academic work or literary essays. Yet it plays a key role in innovation. Here’s why.


The bibliography, an ancient art


A bibliography is a list that references the relevant documentation in a given field. Building a bibliography is an essential act in any action aimed at advancing knowledge.

A bibliography is based on two requirements:

  • Identify prior knowledge to avoid reinventing: nanos gigantum humeris insidentes (“dwarfs on the shoulders of giants”) it is by relying on previous knowledge that we advance it. The bibliography is both a demonstration of strength and humility: to flaunt a knowledge base, but also recognize and attribute authorship;
  • Justify that new knowledge is produced, such as in the case of a doctoral thesis or a patent that need to clearly identify in the bibliography pre-existing knowledge to highlight the originality of the thesis, or the novelty or inventive nature of the patent.

We will not comment using the bibliography for other uses such as measuring the academic performance: it would require a separate development.

Many tools exist to make it easier for students and researchers in establishing a bibliography. Called ‘reference management tools’, they can facilitate the establishment of a bibliography – under certain codified rules for example in the citations -. EndNote, Mendeley or Zotero are such examples that can facilitate this work of collecting, organizing, saving and sharing the bibliography thus established.

Open Innovation, a recent practice


In an innovation activity, the bibliography is also essential: to identify the knowledge, e.g. from publications or patents, which allow the emergence of new ideas on a solid and well-documented basis. The production of new ideas – or questioning preconceived ideas – are obviously key in innovation. This approach must be based on good understanding of the pre-existing knowledge. It is well represented for example by the C-K theory, which explains how innovative design relies on and oscillates between Concepts (C) and Knowledge (K). The bibliography is a key contribution to the “K-space” the knowledge space; concepts (C), which generate the need for new knowledge or are derived from pre-existing knowledge, help identify innovation opportunities.

More informations about CK theory :


In recent years, the rise of Open Innovation, made possible by the development of information and communication technologies, further highlighted the need to integrate existing knowledge – the bibliography – in any innovation flow. It has also stimulated the emergence of new tools. These new tools should both integrate the need for rapid establishment of a bibliography along with quick execution steps. This execution often results in a linking with experts outside the company, who have expertise that the company does not have.

New uses, new tools


Given this new context, platforms specialized in Open Innovation have emerged. They target innovators audiences, at the crossroads between bibliography creation tools and matchmaking, brokerage tools between e.g. innovative enterprises and experts, they have to adapt to these new needs.

To allow to quickly establishing a bibliography with sources of relevant and reliable information (the state-of-the art), to collect and organize information, to save it and to share it, but also to fit in a process of innovative design, these are some of the challenges facing these platforms to enable companies to take advantage of Open Innovation.

Bibliography circle

It is this challenge that ideXlab’s platform addresses : to facilitate access to knowledge, to stimulate innovation and accelerate the execution. Available to all innovators audiences: students, passionate individuals, small and large innovative companies. Try it, contact us, your feedback is precious.


More informations :




Science and music learning

Science and music learning

I never tire of this video of Bobby McFerrin during his time at TEDx. In less than three minutes, we see the singer teaching, with humor, hundreds of people to sing together a complex piece of music … The video is going to allow us to illustrate an original case of link between music and science


This video amazes me and makes me laugh every time!

The means used by Bobby McFerrin to teach the music are very reduced. He does not speak to the crowd, nor uses words. He just sings and moves on the stage and the appropriation of the music is immediate. A first jump puts the song in movement; a side jump allows people to sing a tone above; a jump on the other side to sing a tone below. Not content with communicating the pleasure to make some music together to his public, Bobby McFerrin makes it with humor and kindness.


The absence of words in his teaching is one of the reasons explaining that this music learning works with crowds worldwide. Another reason is probably due to the fact that the music scale used by Bobby McFerrin to get the crowd to sing along is an almost universal scale of five notes called the pentatonic scale. This scale is indeed used, with nuances, in numerous oriental and western music cultures.


But Bobby McFerrin is not the only one to be interested in the pentatonic scale. The applications of that exceed music. Science is also interested in it for surprising applications. It is what we discovered by using the ideXlab search engine. The search engine quickly allows to get an idea of the state of the knowledge – what science tells us – in highly varied fields, including those related with music, as for example the last discoveries concerning the pentatonic scales.


Let us see an example of what science tells us.


A team of neuroscientists at the University of Chengdu and Shanghai Academy of Sciences in China “listen” to the activity of the brain by translating it in the form of music. To do it, they measure the electroencephalogram (EEG) and translate it into musical notes among which the height, the duration and the intensity are calculated by a mathematical processing of the EEG. In recent works, they applied this music production method separately to the right hemisphere and to the left hemisphere of the brain, and then they stacked the melodic lines of both hemispheres. They used successively a heptatonic scale (scale with 7 tones, the most used in western music: do re mi fa sol la si) and a pentatonic sale. Their results demonstrate, by applying this technique to sleeping patients, that the pentatonic scale leads to better differentiation of sleep cycle phases. It also produces music – generated brain waves -which is more harmonious than the heptatonic scale! They don’t comment on whether science so demonstrates that the pentatonic scale is more harmonious or universal than the heptatonic one.


Of course, this work does not explain the effectiveness of learning proposed by Bobby McFerrin. But they illustrate the growing links between music and science, be they cognitive, medical, physical, etc.

bobby mc ferrin music science  pentatonic scale idexlab

One wonders who benefits from these links: artistic practice, by injection of new knowledge as we have seen in this example about the music, or rather the science which is enriched by poetry and humanity?



Open Source VS Open Innovation

Open Source and Open Innovation

We are often asked the difference between Open Innovation and Open Source. And many people confound the two. Let us try to clarify the links between these notions. We will take the opportunity to introduce others (Open Hardware, Open Data, Open Access etc.)

Open Source

Let’s start with the Open Source movement, since it precedes the Open Innovation. This movement was born in the ‘80s around MIT in the United States. It is a reaction to the rise of software vendors emerging in the ’70s. They develop software irrespective of hardware manufacturers and sell it against licenses. So they protect their software and it is often impossible to change what they have developed. Richard Stallman, then a researcher at MIT, reacts against what is a trend opposite to the ‘supporting and sharing’ philosophy of the community of developers and creates a project called GNU, aiming to develop a “free” operating system. He creates a foundation (Free Software Foundation) and writes a manifesto to encourage other developers to join. The first visible success of this initiative will be the Linux operating system which is used today, for example, in all smartphones based on Android.



A few years later, in 1998, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) was born in California. This initiative is especially designed to remove the ambiguity of the English term “free”, which means “libre” (freedom) but also “gratis” (zero price). Open Source promoters don’t deny the economy around the software. Instead, it will rely on paid services (maintenance, improvements, adaptations, etc.) provided together with the software whose licenses are free. OSI clarifies the definition of Open Source and codifies the requirements for a license to be considered compatible. For example, it must allow

modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.


Open Innovation

The term Open Innovation appeared in 2003 in a book published by Henry Chesbrough. The Open Innovation combines the practice of innovation relying deliberately outside the company in order to improve efficiency or to better promote innovation efforts internally. Chesbrough in his book makes a synthesis of practices which are not new. For example, the use of external knowledge via “gatekeepers” is already identified by Thomas Allen in the ‘60s. Von Hippel in the ‘80 identifies the advanced users (“lead users”) as a key resource to develop disruptive innovations. Overall, Open Innovation promotes the development of flow of knowledge and ideas during the innovation process:


  • between the company and its environment, in order to allow better sharing of risks and rewards with external partners;
  • within the company itself, in order to allow greater involvement of all company employees.


We believe that the real novelties related to Open Innovation were not yet fully in action when the term was coined: we should rather focus on the most recent developments of information and communication technologies to find new tools and practices. They rely on social networks, e-commerce, semantic web technologies, free access data (Open Access, Open Data), etc.


From the preceding introductions, it is clear that Open Source and Open Innovation are very different concepts. Let’s mention four important differences.

  1. First of all, regarding the objects involved: software for the Open Source; any type of product or service for the Open Innovation. This difference could partially fade away in the coming years since the production of physical objects is now tackled by derivatives of the Open Source movement such as the Open Source Appropriate Technologies (OSTA) or, more recently, by the Open Source Hardware.
  2. Next, regarding the economic and legal framework proposed. The Open Source provides a framework for economic exchange and an intellectual property policy. Open Innovation leaves these questions totally open. Nothing, for example, defines the conditions for participation of a “lead-user” or of an expert to an Open Innovation challenge.
  3. The weight of the actors. In Open Innovation, the terms of exchange above are often dictated by a large company or defined though a specialized intermediary. These intermediaries don’t really exist in the Open Source since the production and provision of the code may be done via computer servers (forges, repositories).
  4. Finally, the diversity of Open Innovation contexts is huge whereas Open Source covers software development or improvement. Companies use Open Innovation for very upstream projects (ideation, ideas competition), as well as problem solving, improving existing products, mounting research projects, etc.

Common points

But there are also strong commonalities between the two. We will mention four.

  1. The displacement of company borders. Both approaches call into question the boundaries of the traditional business, emphasizing collaboration, sharing, decentralization. They lower the barriers of language and geography (although there is a strong dominance of English and the United States), thus allowing a global flow of ideas and information;
  2. Open Innovation and Open Source value what is today called collective intelligence, recognizing that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, that diversity, independence and decentralization of opinions and ideas allowed by the internet provide access to a richness which was difficult to implement before;
  3. An important element of motivation is the desire to work for the common good. This concern is probably stronger in the Open Source movement (and especially in the Free Software), but we often find this motivation among participants in Open Innovation processes, whether experts, employees or individuals;
  4. Finally, the information and communication technologies play a key role in both the access to information and knowledge, in the production and proliferation of data, and in the circulation of ideas. The Open Access movement promotes unrestricted online access to peer-reviewed scholarly research. This enables a better flow of scientific ideas that need to be read and criticized in order to progress.

open source vs open innovation idexlab infography

Possible convergences?

Are the difference meant to disappear and could the two notions, Open Source and Open Innovation, converge? We’ve seen that Open Source initially focused on the software, but it inspires other movements around products/hardware. On the other hand, the total absence of a common reference framework in Open Innovation in the current state is a weakness. It is today compensated, for example, by intermediaries, but it would probably be appropriate to launch a reflection on some basic rules aiming for example to protect the interests of the contributors to ideas, information and knowledge.


We bet that the commonalities that unite the two practices and are expressed in many other emerging practices are a strong enough base to make the theory and practice of Open Innovation evolve. Open Innovation is still young and lacking guidelines.