My friend David Wood (the only executive at Symbian from beginning to end) has been blogging (and tweeting) all week at the FT Innovation 2009 conference.
One of the guest speakers was Henry Chesbrough, speaking on the topic “Open Innovation: Can it save the world?” Not surprisingly, the first half of the talk was about open innovation and the second half about applying the principles of OI to green technologies.
In his blog article, David reports on both halves. The first half makes a nice summary of the whole open innovation thesis, as presented in the original 2003 Open Innovation book. The second half offers suggestions of how open innovation is being used to accelerate progress in green technologies, such as the GreenXchange project hosted by Science Commons (with funding from Nike and BestBuy).
The model seems to fit what Scott Gallagher & I (in our 2006 article) call “pooled R&D” in the context of Eclipse and other firm-sponsored open source projects. However, one could also argue that it’s an example of cumulative innovation — today a somewhat diffuse and ill-defined literature — particular as manifest by Fiona Murray and Siobhan O’Mahony in their 2007 article.
Either way, open (or cumulative) innovation seems likely to play an important role in solving problems that have both a societal as well as shareholder return. My conjecture is that for issues with broader societal benefit, the pressures for results sooner rather than later will override a single firm’s efforts to attain competitive advantage. (Or perhaps it’s just that firms want to exploit funding while it’s available, before governments realize they’re broke or sponsors move on to funding some new trendy area.)