January 29, 2011

Intel does more inbound OI

Stanford and Intel this week announced their joint R&D lab on the Stanford campus this week. As noted in the San Jose Merc and the Stanford press release, the research will include $2.5 million/year of Intel money over five years, as well as 30 faculty and 50 graduate students.

The Merc claimed it was “unusual”:
In an unusual collaboration, Intel and Stanford University announced Wednesday that their scientists will work together, on campus, to design new visual computing projects.
However, open innovation readers will recall that there’s nothing knew about Intel paying for its scientists to work alongside university researchers.

Intel’s cooperative university research was the focus of Chapter 6 of Chesbrough’s original 2003 book. And as Chesbrough noted in a 2005 interview with Strategy & Leadership, Intel worked closely with 15 US and 10 overseas universities on its basic and applied research. Intel has obviously made a major investment in this collaboration — paying its scientists, the lab costs and funding university projects — for more than a decade.

Intel is not the only firm to be so actively involved. In my 2008 road tour of mobile phone research at US universities, it was obvious that Nokia (then) had a significant presence at Stanford and MIT with its nearby research labs. Microsoft had an even greater presence.

This is not limited to software, which is why Novartis has a major research lab across the street from MIT and Johnson & Johnson has a research lab a mile north of UCSD.

Given the cutbacks in industrial research since the heyday of Bell Labs, companies are more dependent than ever on universities for basic research. The problems are that the companies need to have enough scale and investment in absorptive capacity to take advantage of the (rather expensive) access to external knowledge.

It also requires organizational slack and a consistency of commitment to see it through. When I visited Yahoo Research Berkeley with Youngjin Yoo in 2007, we were impressed with how far they had come in solving some tough problems at the cutting edge of mobile Internet services. When I went back a year later, YRB was gone, and its founder Marc Davis was temporarily at a Yahoo operational job en route to Microsoft (via a startup).

There’s more to open innovation and university relations that the canon of Chesbrough. One of the most oft-cited papers of the first decade of open innovation is the 2007 paper by Markus Perkmann and Kathryn Walsh entitled “University–industry relationships and open innovation: Towards a research agenda.” But as the paper suggests, there’s plenty of research that needs to be done at the intersection of these two streams.

January 24, 2011

Open Innovation Speaker Series: Spring 2011

Today marks the first day of another semester of the Open Innovation Speaker Series at the Center for Open Innovation at UC Berkeley, a combination of a public speaker series and a graduate seminar in innovation.

The academic speakers include internationally known innovation experts, including Frank Piller, Mary Tripsas and Sabine Brunswicker. There will also be an array of industry speakers, including representatives of Clorox, PARC, SAP and Xerox and the former CTO of Cisco.

I look forward to reprising my appearance today at the COI and giving the Berkeley students an overview of open, user and cumulative innovation. My only regret is to not be able to catch up with Henry Chesbrough, who is teaching open innovation to European Ph.D. students Monday and Tuesday. Today’s session will be hosted by co-organizer Solomon Darwin of UC Berkeley.

Except as noted, the sessions are Mondays from 12:30-2:00 p.m. in Sutardja Dai Hall, room 250.
24-Jan-11Joel West
Professor, Innovation & Entrepreneurship
San Jose State University
31-Jan-11Henry Chesbrough
Professor & Director, Center for Open Innovation
Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley
7-Feb-11Frank Piller
Chair & Director, Technology & Innovation Mgt.
RWTH Aachen University
14-Feb-11Jennifer Miller
Director of Corporate Innovation
23-Feb-11 (Wed)
Haas S480
Alex Osterwalder
Author & Speaker on Business Model Innovation
Business Design, Switzerland
28-Feb-11Jennifer Ernst
Director, Business Development PARC, A Xerox Company
7-Mar-11Santokh Badesha
Manager of Open Innovation
Xerox Corporation
14-Mar-11Mary Tripsas
Professor, Entrepreneurial Management
Harvard Business School
21-Mar-11Spring Recess
28-Mar-11Judy Estrin
CEO, J Labs
(Former CTO of Cisco)
4-Apr-11Vivek Whadwa
Professor & Director, Center for Entrepreneurship
Duke University
11-Apr-11Anand Ramachandran
Director of Co‐Innovation
18-Apr-11Sabine Brunswicker
Manager/Senior Researcher
Fraunhofer Institute, Germany
25-Apr-11Francesco Sandulli
Professor, Innovation & Information Technology
University of Madrid

January 20, 2011

The limits of crowdsourcing

At the #BAexec event last week, one of the interesting questions from the floor was “could the iPhone have been produced via crowdsourcing?”

My immediate reaction was “no”. What’s made Apple so special for the past 13 years has been the solitary, laser-focused vision of product design brought by its CEO. Of course, that’s just the supposition of a 35-year Apple-watcher.

What I think was more interesting was: what are the limits of crowdsourcing? Those who study crowdsourcing consider its advantages for accessing heterogeneous knowledge bases or sheer scale of ideas. But integrating that hodgepodge of ideas — no matter how good — can be daunting if not labor intensive.

The Business of Systems IntegrationI guess this comes back to a simple point: for some innovations, the integration of technologies is more important than the individual technologies themselves. But then anyone who’s read about the iPhone would know that such cases exist.

January 19, 2011

The pride of user innovators

At the #BAexec sponsored event last week, the title was “Social Networks for Innovations”. The host was Prof. Terri Griffith of Santa Clara’s Leavey School of Business.

Leavey is arch-rival to my own employer, the SJSU Lucas Graduate School of Business, but Terri and I have a dense network of mutual friends that long predate our respective hiring dates.

The afternoon event at SCU included two panels:
With 90 minutes per panel — mostly discussion — the discussion was much deeper than at a typical conference. And having donated my afternoon in exchange for a free lunch, it was reassuring to hear from very smart people on topics that overlap with (and in some cases extend beyond) my own expertise.

Griffith and Cramer blogged on the event. A video of the whole thing is at SCU’s website (not in Flash, but worse, Silverlight format).

I had slides planned for my talk — providing an overview of open innovation — but since others didn’t use slides I decided to ditch them. (As I often do, I did reference the standard references by Chesbrough and von Hippel.)

I have only limited notes of the first panel (since I left my laptop at the table), but here are a few observations.

The story of TechShop was an inspiring one — providing a way for user innovators to produce tangible goods such as a bamboo iPad case now available for retail sale. (As Griffith noted, TechShop appeals to the same audience as the Maker Faire.)

Here’s one exchange where I did have notes:
Audience: How do you handle IP issues?
Newton: This is not an issue at TechShop, because each inventor assumes their idea is the best [and so ignore the others.]
West: Generally what you need is win/win propositions and complementary business models: direct rivals don’t have a reason to cooperate but complementors do. Also — as I found in my encounter on this blog with a big cereal company — large companies can often be shamed into doing the right thing because they care so much about bad PR.
Jim Newton raised an important point I never would have considered. Still absent any data, IMHO the pride and hubris of inventors is good for short-term advantage, but of course any good idea is going to get copied.

Finally, one audience member asked how to get a company to adopt open innovation and consider external ideas. Carpenter’s view was that “if the organization is not ready, you can’t make it.” My advice was to use the corporate equivalent of gaiatsu — leveraging external pressure to get your internal constiuents to do what wanted them to do anyway.