The Future Of Innovation Is Collaborative

Dr. Lawrence Dooley

Organisations must continuously innovate in terms of product, process, market and business model to remain sustainable. They innovate to enhance competitive advantage over other organisations and improve profitability. However the paradox is that these organisations may need to collaborate with competitor organisations in order to successfully innovate. The desire to develop radical innovations that occupy ‘new’ market space often requires an organisation to move significant distance from its existing competencies and capabilities. As this distance increases so does the risk of failure in undertaking the prospective innovation. This has led to a shift in innovation perspective from concentration on developing internal organisational competencies to support innovation, to the ‘new’ perspective of inter-organisational collaborative networks and collaboration.

Future organisational innovation activity will be exemplified by continuous innovation, achieved by inter-organisational networks exploring opportunities through horizontal and self-managed systems. The trend towards inter-organisational collaboration is driven by increased global competition and shortening product lifecycles, increased complexity and cost of the innovations being undertaken and a more discerning market. The model of collaborative innovation allows an organisation certain advantages such as access to deficient internal skills and capabilities, distribution of the associated risks and costs across the network partners and ultimately the enhancing of their ability to deliver the innovation to the market. To date, the majority of innovation networks have concentrated on areas such as technology transfer and collective commercialisation of technology. However, future networks will see their locus of concentration move to earlier phases of the innovation process as they endeavour to achieve better alignment of the discovery phase output with their collective commercial interests. Knowledge-led innovation networks can engage university and industry partners in the national innovation system, offering a mechanism for leveraging the university sector’s research capability to contribute to the development of both industry and the knowledge economy, while still maintaining the university’s core missions of education and fundamental research.

This shift towards collaborative innovation disrupts the traditional routines of the innovation process and requires the organisation to develop new skills and competencies if they wish to continue to innovate. The relevance of the organisations technical competence is a fundamental qualifying criterion for their participation in the network. The ‘new’ skills centre on the organisations ability to interact with other partner organisations, share knowledge and collectively manage the networked innovation process from beginning to end. Capabilities such as partnering and integration of organisational cultures, effective collaborator selection and protocol routines, building trust amongst network partners, clarity of purpose regarding objectives, intellectual property rights and strong project management skills all influence the organisations collaborative capability. Rarely does an organisation or the network possess all these capabilities at their origins; however successful innovation networks will nurture the development of these abilities over time to enhance their innovative capability. The presence of these factors allows networks achieve the required knowledge exchange and commitment amongst participating organisations to facilitate innovation development. As we progress into the future, the importance of these skills and capabilities will increase as collaborative innovation becomes the norm.

Article © 2009 Dr. Lawrence Dooley. All rights reserved.

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Dr. Lawrence Dooley

Dr. Lawrence Dooley

affiliation:   University College Cork - Management & Marketing Department

position:  College Lecturer

country:  Ireland

area of interest:  Innovation Management

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