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PA's Open Innovation report: leading in a collaborative world

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Open innovation (OI) helps companies access new technologies and innovation at a faster rate and lower cost than can be achieved internally. Yet many companies have not yet developed ways of maximising its potential. 

To help identify the key success factors for Open Innovation, PA Consulting Group has compiled a report drawing on the experience of leading companies. We talked to R&D and marketing professionals in sectors ranging from pharmaceutical and medical device to large engineering and consumer products.             

Request a copy of PA's open innovation report.


The key themes that emerged from the report were:

Leading from the top – adopting a clear strategy

Most companies agreed that OI is key, but relatively few have so far adopted a structured or company-wide approach. Several felt that it can be difficult to gain buy-in and resources for OI projects. This means those involved in OI can feel marginalised and under pressure to show results.

The view among those we spoke to is that successful OI requires leadership, from the top of the business and all the way through the heads of functions. When relevant, respected members of the company were championing it, the process became much easier.

“There is strong support right from the top. The CEO has made a statement saying that it is crucial to strategy," confirmed the Head of Innovation at a  consumer products company.

Optimising the approach – gaining value from OI

Most of those we talked to feel that OI is a strategic necessity in sustaining innovation leadership. Some respondents also saw it as a possible cost-saving measure. All agreed that the importance of making the right decision on which OI initiatives to pursue was magnified in the current economic climate. 

Few companies, though, are currently able either to construct and appraise an objective business case for OI or to implement a reliable way of measuring the value it brings.

As a director of a medical device company said, “I understand the need for open innovation in principle. It’s not always clear, however, how working in this way will generate real value for our company.” 

Choosing the right resources – internally and externally

OI is an outward-facing activity requiring skills such as collaboration, relationship building, negotiating and the ability to pioneer novel legal arrangements. These skills are not always available in-house, so choosing the right external partner is critical in the current climate.

Despite this pressure, training in OI is not widely available and it is unclear exactly what form this training would take. Some argued that the only way to learn about OI is on the job, while others felt that formal training is an important part of OI’s acceptance and its success. All accepted that training in OI is still very underdeveloped.

The head of research and development at a pharmaceutical company underlined the challenge, saying: “We put one person in position to lead the effort, but if you want to make it work, you need an entire team of people who all understand different aspects of open innovation across the entire company."



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To find out more about assessing and improving open innovation approaches in your organisation, please contact us now.

Mark Humphries
Product development and manufacturing
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