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Meet the actors: Open innovations platform: benefits, insights and working procedures

An Open Innovation Platform is a digital space where purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge are used to accelerate the innovation developed by an organisation.

Why Open Innovation Platforms are so useful?

For companies, Open Innovation Platforms act as accelerators of the Innovation Development processes and therefore, as growth accelerators. Open Innovation platforms help to capture the best existing talent of the world regarding a concrete theme, allowing the company involved to reduce the amount of time and investment when implementing a development innovation process. At the same time, Open Innovation Platforms allow entrepreneurs to create solutions that are needed (and therefore valued) and also to offer existing solutions to a wide market current. It has been proved, then, that this tool is very useful for companies and entrepreneurs.


What did we aim at?

The objectives of the session were:

  1. Share main conclusions of a brief desk research about the Open Innovation Platforms approaches, benefits and insights
  2. To provide a base for the next day session ¨Scale up market links: Conceptualisation of a Mediterranean Open Innovation Platform¨ which will focus on co-creating the first potential concepts/approaches for the SwitchMed Eco and Social Open Innovation Platform.



Three models of Open Innovation Platforms

The panel was moderated by Ms. Sandra Pina, Head of Innovation & Research and Partner of Quiero Salvar El Mundo Haciendo Marketing. The panellists were:

  • Mr. Patricio Guzman, Head For Europe, Socialab
  • Ms. Ursula Tischner, Owner of Econcept, Manager of the European Sustainability Maker Project and Part of the Team of Innonatives
  • Mr. Tamer Taha, Founder & CEO, (made in Egypt) Platform

At the beginning of the session, Ms. Pina gave a very comprehensive overview of what we understand for Open Innovation Platforms (OIPs). She gave two key messages on OIPs:

-     It is a platform that promotes information exchange and puts in contact ¨the seekers¨ (owner of the main challenge) and ¨the solvers¨.

-     This digital space allows to: a.Coordinate the participation of varied actors and to organize solutions; b. Establish a set of behavior norms (how resources will be identified, how assets will be exchanged and how outcomes or interactions will be valued)?.

Specifically, she presented the main conclusions of a brief desk research about the open innovation platforms approaches, their services and principal ways of operating. She reviewed the existing open innovation platforms, including the ones based in the Mediterranean, the ones that have a more social and eco approach, and the ones owned by companies such as Unilever or LEGO. According to the research Quiero has done, the two main services those OIPs could be used for are for generating ideas in the first stage of an innovation process –allowing ¨the solver¨  to post their own ideas with or without a specific request–  and for solving a problem or challenge when developing an innovation.






Finally she explained that those platforms offer great possibilities for ¨the seekers¨ or owner of the challenge, as OIPs moderate the discussion to enrich the dialogue, ensure that the technical requirements are met in an efficient and timely manner, provide experts watching the whole process of exchanging the ideas, etc… Moreover, those platforms can reach a lot of people through social media.  ¨On the social and environmental perspective there is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs, as solvers can get funding and many other different types of rewards¨ remarked Sandra Pina.

Pina fondly introduced the three panelists and expressed her gratitude for participating in the session. First she introduced Mr. Tamer Taha, who is the founder and CEO of Yomken Platform, an open platform for innovation and funding based in Egypt. Second, she introduced to Ms. Ursula Tischner, who is the director of the online platform and network Innonatives whose aim will be to become a powerful initiative towards the resolution of sustainability-related problems. Finally, she introduced Mr. Patricio Guzman, who is the Head of Europe of Social Lab, a platform for innovation that generates social disruptive enterprises, in order to find solutions to problems associated with poverty and inequality through co-creation and networking with other actors in society. Afterwards, Ms. Pina gave the floor to each of them. She also asked a series of questions,

Mr. Taha explained that Yomken is based on an open-innovation model where a specific challenge is posted online, and solutions are sought from the extended web community. He highlighted that Yomken also offers a platform for MSEs and young, innovative entrepreneurs to look for seed funding and to market their products. ¨This is achieved through crowdfunding, where funding targets are met by inviting online customers to pre-order products¨ he said. Ms. Tischner explained that we do is to empower innovation for sustainability. We aim to bring people together that bring radical ideas, and therefore radical changes. We facilitate online a innovation process, (for instance for people that don´t speak English, we have a ¨shop¨ to ensure solutions are trade, we provide a team of experts who can help during the process, etc… Mr. Guzman told the audience that Socialab is operating in 5 countries in South America and that they are trying to enter at the european market. The idea is to find those guys who have an amazing ideas but no funding to put them into the market. We seek SEED capital for the very best ideas.

“What makes intelligence is an intelligent guy inside the crowd.?
r. Tamer Taha, Founder & CEO, Yomken Platform


Which do you think are the benefits for using OIPs for an entrepreneur and for a company? What is the added value, why an entrepreneur should participate in an open innovation platform?

Mr. Taha emphasised that Yomken is also a crowdsourcing innovation for sustainability. W work for the geeks, who by default are very much technical people and quite introverted, so we avoid them all the hassle of paperwork, contacting networks, etc…

Ms. Tischner pointed out that the sustainability issues can not be solved by sitting at home, by the old traditional system, it has something collective. Collaboration is a key word, as we can only solve the complex of the sustainability by collaborating amongst each other. Open source systems and tools allow us to use the power of the crowd to design and implement radical innovation for sustainability. For the crowd is possible to talk to the big guys, NGOs, etc...., this is one of the other added values of open innovation platforms.

Mr. Guzman spelt out that everything is connected nowadays.  We are talking about a new stage of consciousness. It is a first step of a new kind of thinking for humans. 









Can you share a story with us, a challenge solved that was special for you?

Mr. Guzman highlighted that to give someone the opportunity to contribute, can have a huge positive impact. For him, a story that was very special was when they launched a challenge that in 1000 characters solvers cold suggest ideas to eradicate poverty. The winner of the challenge, two year later, has received a very important award.

Ms. Tischner explained that the Federal University of Parana, in Curitiba, Brazil, came to them and asked to do something with low income families in the fabelas. Out of all the issues that came out, the one that was most voted was about how to improve socializing in kitchens, as in turn out that the kitchen space of a low income house in Brazil often works as dining room and a living room. If the kitchen space is already quite small for the family members, how will it also fit visitors? In order to change this reality, the challenge owners used the platform to seek ideas to make the kitchen a more comfortable and flexible place. Ms. Tischner explained that solvers came out with lots of ideas, and the community voted the best ones, including multifunctional shelves and new designs for tables produced by students, in which they get 50 % of their sales.

Mr. Taha explained that although the Egyptian cotton crops occupied once a high export value for the country, Egyptian production of cotton decreased over the past fifty years as a direct result of the decline in the price of cotton in the global market. Farmers prefer to cultivate other type of crops. He highlighted that the Cotton R&D in Egypt focused on the development of strains of cotton, but did not bother to develop the cotton harvest mechanization. So now, the Cotton Research Institute has launched a challenge in order to design an automatic or semi-automatic machine to reap long-staple Egyptian cotton while taking into account the dimensions of the plant, the properties of Egyptian cotton. In addition, the harvesting efficiency rate should be over 90%.



Following the process of the basic challenge/solvers approach... which are the profiles and the different work that is involved when launching and sorting the "challenge"?

The three panellists agreed that to set up an open innovation platform it is indeed a lot of work. Ms. Tischner highlighted that the communication part is a big thing for the European Sustainability Maker Project, in terms of engaging people, promoting the platform and providing the right services to the users. It is necessary to facilitate and moderate the platform very well, as people need to understand comprehensively the entire process.  She mentioned that the platform offers services such as ¨I want to consult an expert? thus they need to appoint experts, evaluation processes (both owners and users evaluate). Both Mr. Guzman and Mr. Taha also agreed that it is indeed a very complicate process to follow and to moderate. 


Could you tell us how is the internal process you have to do from an OIP?

Mr. Taha noted that they started with 20 volunteers. We wanted to see how the market would react. We receive challenges both in English and Arabic, online and offline, and the whole process lasts for three months. He remarked that there are some NGOs that don’t use internet but Facebook. They help to draft the content of the solutions to be posted, so it is better written. We refuse challenges that harm the environment or society.

Ms. Tischner commented that they deal with very diverse issues from communication campaigns to very technical issues. The only requirement is that it needs to be related to sustainability. We even have a challenge to generate challenges.

Mr. Guzman clarified that Socialab first approach a company that have a problem or a challenge to solve, such as Telefonica. Then we create the challenge.  Afterwards we evaluate the best ideas, which in turn we ask them to give us more information, a pitch, for instance. They also have to build a business models. Only then, we have co-creation process with them. This is the most important part. 


Is the crowd really intelligent? Or at the end is not that much?

Mr. Ursula explained that people have the power of the market, so they can certainly help you with feedback. She referred to a study in which research was done to verify whether crowd intelligence or collective intelligence is better than individual intelligence. While is not yet clear whether people have the ability to collectively accomplish complex goals that none could achieve individually, the important thing is to end up with a system that is democratic. Mr. Taha said that what makes intelligence is an intelligent guy inside the crowd. Mr. Guzman agreed in those comments. 




Financing the whole story: how is the OIP is the process of challenge-solvers financed? In your platforms or the ones where you have experience: Had the "winner" entrepreneur opportunity to finance in some way their project to make it are the entrepreneurs financed?

Ms. Tischner noted that the European Sustainability Maker Project is an EU Life Programme, which means that is funded 50% by the European Union and the other is funded by the 5 partners.  She explained that in the aftermath of the project, they will have to find a new business model for themselves. They already have a difference between open and close innovation challenges. The open ones, as they don’t commercialize the solutions, it is free of charge. However they also offer services for close challenges, in which there are copy rights involved; as the company makes benefits, it gets charged for our services.

Mr. Taha explained that Yomken charges 10 % of it.  However, our funds come more form the complementary services that Sandra Pina mentioned in her presentation – he highlighted. In the aftermath of the challenge, if an investor is looking for ideas, he/she can contact us and we will put them in contact with the entrepreneurs.

Mr. Guzman added that if a company want to solve something, the company has to pay for the whole process. Companies should realise that the opportunity is out there. How much would you spend if you would try to solve the problem on your own?


How do you think that OIPS will evolve in the next 10 years? What is their future?

Al the panellist agreed that in the future years, many open innovation platforms will be launched. Out of the box thinking creativity can find a better place.



Let's continue the discussion

You can join and contribute the discussion on Open Innovation Platforms continuing in the session community here. Yo can aldo download the presentation here. In that comunitu we encourage you to post your own reflections, experiences and questions. Keep engaging and shaping the content of SwitchMed Connect 2016.