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Open Innovation: Paving the way for Deep Tech adoption


Mon, 07/12/2021 - 12:00


From partnerships with academia to industry alliances and innovation ecosystems, companies view such collaborations as a way to navigate an increasingly competitive and unpredictable landscape and tap on the best talent across the globe. Find out why open innovation matters to Deep Tech here. 

The concept of Open Innovation goes against many tenets of traditional corporate R&D culture.

Advanced innovation has long been the domain of large corporates or institutions with deep pockets, who, for decades, regarded the outcomes of their research as strategic assets to be guarded and tightly controlled, necessary for maintaining a market lead and advantage. Much of what we understand of computing and digitalisation today was discovered this way – deep in the R&D bowels of tech giants like IBM, Bell Labs and Phillips.

Yet today, businesses are warming up to the idea of blending external expertise with internal ideas as a way to accelerate transformation and digitalisation. According to research from BCG, 65% of companies now work with startups or new ventures through platforms such as corporate venture capital (CVC) funds, accelerators, incubators, or open innovation units. This shift in perspective is increasingly fueled by a globalised knowledge workforce and the rise of digital tools for collaboration and communication - two major “push” factors also responsible for the exponential growth of data and ideas being generated and exchanged.

Why Open Innovation matters to Deep Tech

From partnerships with academia to industry alliances and innovation ecosystems, companies view such collaborations as a way to navigate an increasingly competitive and unpredictable landscape and tap on the best talent across the globe.

These partnerships can be especially critical in the area of Deep Tech adoption when sometimes a little extra help can go a long way. Fast-growing areas like machine learning and robotics are quickly becoming a mainstay of digital businesses, yet companies can often encounter stumbling blocks when embarking on these projects due to the highly specialised nature of Deep Tech and its grounding in scientific research.

Setting teams up for success often calls for skill sets from different areas such as engineering, data science, and business operations to work on a single solution, an increasingly difficult task in an industry characterised by acute global talent shortages at all levels. The development of Deep Tech-driven solutions also often requires significant, sustained capital investment at each stage of the product development process, from conceptualisation to testing and the eventual rollout, adding on to the financial risks that accompany any R&D endeavour.

While the idea of Open Innovation is not new, it was only examined with a modern lens by Henry Chesbrough in 2003 as a structure for businesses innovating collaboratively with external partners. Since then, a myriad of open innovation structures has emerged, from research alliances between corporate partners and universities, to public-private collaborations and crowdsourcing competitions. This openness has changed the way many companies design and roll out solutions in a highly competitive and fast-paced business environment. In the Deep Tech space, such a model can serve as an exchange platform, connecting businesses with innovators like startups to fill critical knowledge and skill gaps and address challenges in a much more timely manner. It’s a win-win for the startups involved as well, who can expand with access to more resources and markets to refine the application of their systems and technologies.

Many are taking this even further, using Open Innovation as a platform to push the boundaries of Deep Tech application and tackle pressing global issues, from healthcare to the environment. Collaborations like the XPRIZE Health & Pandemic Alliance are a great example of this transformative force in action. Under the common goals of making healthcare systems more resilient and preventing the next pandemic, they’ve succeeded in bringing together a diverse array of partners to support research projects and develop solutions to address immediate challenges in the healthcare sector.

Closer to home, the National Research Foundation has been actively encouraging public-private R&D partnerships between universities and companies through the establishment of corporate laboratories housed within local institutions. These partnerships allow corporates, from Rolls Royce to Singtel, to tap on our universities’ technological and scientific capabilities to address critical industry issues. At the same time students and researchers now have the opportunity to work on cutting-edge solutions, preparing them for future employment.

Our Deep Tech ecosystem partner, Infineon, also sees this approach to open collaborations as vital to its plans to make Singapore the company’s global Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovation hub by 2023. Working hand-in-hand with startups through an MOU with SGInnovate, as well as other groups such as the NUS Institute of System Science and AI Singapore, Infineon aims to use these partnerships to grow the local ecosystem further and embed AI into every job function in its Singapore hub moving forward.

What was once an experiment for many has now become a lodestar for corporate strategy, helping organisations become more agile and adaptable in the process.

Putting Open Innovation to work for local Deep Tech startups

Such partnerships have raised the profile of Open Innovation in Singapore, and the Government has been keen to sustain this momentum and build on these efforts. The Open Innovation Network and the recently enhanced Open Innovation Platform are all aimed at connecting Singapore companies with the global innovation community.

At SGInnovate, we’ve also sought to create avenues for Deep Tech startups in Singapore and abroad, to work more closely with corporates around the world to deliver impactful solutions. Our Open Innovation Series with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) brings together each of our organisations strengths – SGInnovate’s passionate Deep Tech Community and expertise in catalysing corporate-startup collaborations, with EDB’s extensive global network of corporates, to address some of the specific challenges faced in many fast-growing sectors.

We’ve kicked off this partnership with a Reverse Pitch to examine some of the perennial challenges encountered by teams in the Supply Chain and Logistics sector. Industry leaders from Bolloré Logistics, Schneider Electric and Unilever Foundry were invited to present their problem statements and potential areas of collaboration as part of an open invitation for collaboration with startups. These challenges have been uploaded to our website, and I encourage you to take a closer look.

I’m looking forward to seeing this cross-pollination of ideas bear fruit and contribute to the building of more resilient and sustainable innovation ecosystem. We’ll be announcing more Open Innovation events and resources in the months ahead, so connect with us and join the SGInnovate community on this journey.

Be part of the SGInnovate community and connect with us here.


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