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Fast, iterative “virtual research centers,” where hypotheses are tested and improved before they are scaled into new products, are edging out traditional R&D approaches.
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Bringing high-tech inventions built on patented technologies to market can be complicated and risky. The threat of added costs from patent infringement lawsuits has led technology companies to pool their talents — and patents — in technology consortia. Joining a tech consortium requires managers to weigh intellectual property value against the value of future collaborations and assess the consortium’s pros and cons for innovation, competition, and market creation.
Many managers think they can create better products just by improving the development process or adding new tools. But it’s skilled people, not processes, that create great products. So-called “lean” organizations invest heavily and continuously in the skills of product developers, and rather than developing single products, they think in terms of streams of products. By making people the backbone of the product development system, companies can achieve a triple win: increased innovation, faster time to market, and lower costs.
Could science-based industries benefit from a financing model similar to one used to make Hollywood movies? “We propose that a form of governance centered on the project rather than the company may be a more efficient way to organize innovation in science-based industries,” write the authors. Their proposal addresses the fact that traditional venture capital “wasn’t designed to deal with the costs, risks, and slow payout of science-based industries.”
Most people recognize their data as an asset — yet few regard it as a liquid asset. But a chance meeting opened up an opportunity for using data assets in a different way to support R&D — and uncovered a whole new path for financing of science and tech research. SVB Analytics head Steve Allan explains how using analytics “allows us to ask if we need to look at the data a different way.”
The only way to move forward on society’s biggest challenges may be through consortiums. But it’s not easy to assemble such groups or to keep them together. The experiences of The Biomarkers Consortium, a nine-year-old public-private partnership in the health industry, presents five lessons in managing these kinds of complex collaborations. These lessons are useful for anyone trying to build consensus to address broad societal challenges among multiple stakeholders with both common and divergent interests.
Rather than seeking in-house solutions to problems, companies are increasingly turning to contests to generate many diverse ideas. The authors write that companies are finding “that many of the very best ideas lie outside their organizations, in an ecosystem of potential innovators who possess wide-ranging skills and knowledge.” But the advantages of using competitions to pursue innovation must be set against the potential costs and risks.
Executives from around the world agree that research and development is a global effort requiring collaboration. Yet many say their organizations must improve in this area — evolving from the centralized approach that’s prevalent today — to meet strategic goals. In other words, for today’s R&D organizations, there is a significant gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it. Vital as it is to their futures, the art of collaboration is one that many R&D organizations have yet to master.
What happens when an academic institution rethinks how research gets done? In an experiment in open innovation applied to scientific research, Harvard Catalyst, a pan-Harvard agency, modified the traditional grant proposal process to bring greater openness into every stage of research. In the end, 150 new hypotheses were proposed. The Harvard Catalyst experience suggests that open-innovation principles can be applied to a well-established research organization.
University-business collaborations are an increasingly important source of research and development for many companies. Yet despite their importance, many companies take much less care managing these relationships than they do those with their vendors or customers. As a result, business-academic collaborations often fail to achieve as much as they might. By taking a more structured approach, companies can improve the performance of their academic research partnerships.
Traditionally used for computer aided design and manufacturing applications, in recent years digital design has migrated to the front end of the development process, facilitating ideation, conceptual design and globally distributed innovation. Through empirical and case-based research — including a longitudinal study of 145 organizations that are heavy users of digital design — this article explores the challenges and opportunities of employing digital design during these early stages.
The current balkanized approach to measuring patent quality is not serving the users of the world’s patent systems. Like those advocating for the metric standard two centuries ago, we have an incompatibility problem today in the international patent system. But how the global patent system is organized and managed has far-reaching implications for innovation, consumer choice and corporate profits.
A new approach to modern scholarship, called crowd science or citizen science and utilizing volunteers from around the world, turns science into games. Already it is making contributions to the science of ecology, medicine and astronomy.
Universities can be major resources in a company’s innovation strategy. But to extract the most business value from research, companies need to follow seven rules.
To understand how breakthroughs in creativity occur, managers must understand how most collaborations work. “Managers first need to understand that invention is essentially a process of recombinant search,” writes Lee Fleming. “That is, I adopt the classic definition of invention as a new combination of components, ideas or processes.” Fleming adds that “Almost all inventions are useless; a few are of moderate value; and only a very, very few are breakthroughs. Those breakthroughs constitute the ‘long tail’ of innovation.”
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