Open Innovation Challenge – boosting the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem

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Open innovation – necessary approach in companies and regions

Innovation is a critical factor behind economic development and competitiveness. At the same time, its nature is evolving. Instead of happening inside the boundaries of single companies, innovations increasingly emerge as a result of cooperation among multiple and diverse actors.

The Open Innovation model from Henry Chesbrough (2003), which describes the opening up of the innovation process of organisations and the active strategic use of the outside world to increase the innovation potential, is increasingly considered as a necessity for companies to be successful on the long-term. It provides a valid answer to the increasing pressure on companies performing R&D resulting from more and more complex technologies and fast-paced market developments.

But open innovation has also turned into a model for policy makers to sustain regional innovation performance. Regions have nowadays been recognised as playing a central role in the economy. They are gradually becoming basic units of the local ecosystem e.g. by offering a favourable platform for cooperation between companies leading to the creation of a regional open innovation system. (Torkkeli & Ahonen, 2007)

Lazio Region in Italy - holistically on the way to Open Innovation

This is where the Interreg Europe project SCALE UP – concentration and robustness of SMEs within the renewed EU industrial policy – comes in. The Lazio Region, partner in the project, has been extensively promoting an Open Innovation strategy. LAZIO INNOVA – the regional development agency – is in charge of enhancing the economic growth at regional level. Through a set of integrated services, tailored tools and financial opportunities LAZIO INNOVA aims at the entrepreneurial promotion as well as business creation in order to boost the regional ecosystem growth (companies, startups, local institutions, research organizations, universities, business associations as well as citizens).

In 2015 LAZIO INNOVA – taking the role of a facilitator - launched the first Open Innovation Challenge with the aim of supporting the whole entrepreneurial ecosystem – from large corporates to startups and talents – by offering the entire range of services required to facilitate the innovation process for large corporates and the scale-up for startups.

With the Open Innovation Challenge, LAZIO INNOVA offers medium sized to large corporates companies the opportunity to launch a 'challenge' to search for innovative product/ process/ service solutions that are most in line with their needs. Launching a challenge allows the company to take advantage of the innovative potential of startups and businesses to drive and implement their business innovation processes. In return, they offer expertise, budget and a market for startups. 

The approach or how this works is presented in the following picture:

Diagram of the approach to open innovation

Source: Lazio Innova

More details concerning the steps, resources needed, difficulties encountered etc. can be found in the good practice description. What definitely should be highlighted here are the results achieved since 2015: 18 Innovation Challenges launched and price awards granted with 15 large and medium sized corporates engaged, more than 250 applications received, 100 startups and innovators involved in the mentorship programs as well as 60 mentors. This definitely sounds like a very successful initiative. One especially important lesson learned is, as explained by the project manager Laura Santarelli, that 'the success of the challenge depends mostly on the commitment and the mindset of corporates launching the innovation need'.

One example of the Open Innovation Challenge is Telsy (more examples can be found here) a company founded in 1971 operating in the field of cybersecurity. End of April 2020 Telsy launched a challenge 'Innovative authentication for mobile devices' in collaboration with Lazio Region and Lazio Innova.

Marco Coppola, head of strategy in Telsy explains the decision why to launch a challenge: 'The main driver for us to launch the challenge was the understanding that being a company working at the forefront of technology means to be able to go beyond because you cannot innovate if you only look inside your company. You have to tap into all the resources of the ecosystem around, onto all the good ideas, to be able to incorporate them into your engineering process and to bring them to the market.'

What’s next?

As a next step, LAZIO INNOVA plans to further support the process   the co-design phase is being tested. Here the large corporate sets a specific need and the innovators are asked to prepare a technical and economical offer for the implementation of the concept.

The Challenge is indeed a successful, very good and well working approach and furthermore easily replicable. For the moment it has not been transferred to the partner regions as the project SCALE UP is still in an early phase. All interested organisations are welcome to reach out to LAZIO INNOVA!

Image credit: Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels