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Report aims to help manufacturers with Open Innovation

A report published by University of Cambridge manufacturing researchers can help companies use a technique called Open Innovation to develop new products or get hold of new technologies, its authors have claimed.

The report, titled ‘Getting Help With Open Innovation' and available online, is aimed at manufacturers who want to work with external business partners, but who lack the skills and capabilities to do so. In particular, it could help a company choose the right ‘innovation intermediary' to help them, said Dr Letizia Mortara, a researcher at the university's Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) and one of the report's authors.

"Our research had identified a clear desire for a structured method of selecting innovation intermediaries," she explained. "This came from the intermediaries themselves and the companies which used their services.

"Most firms turn to intermediaries for help in accessing and developing the skills and capabilities needed to implement open innovation partnerships. The issue for many companies is that intermediaries come in a bewildering range of forms, ranging from commercial and technical consultancies, to government departments and academic networks.

"And because they provide such a wide range of services, from market and technology strategy development, product development, to specific technology problems, it makes the process of selecting the appropriate intermediary very difficult."

The result of a year-long study involving companies and organisations such as BP, GSK, PepsiCo, EPSRC and NESTA, the new report suggests a structured approach to selecting the most appropriate intermediary for a particular company's needs, the IfM said.

Dr Mortara added that intermediaries vary considerably in terms of the capabilities they can offer. The report's structured approach would help companies ask the right questions and assess potential intermediaries, and could also help intermediaries to clearly state their service offering, she said.

The study builds on previous research on innovation carried out by the IfM's Centre for Technology Management, such as a 2009 report ‘How to implement Open Innovation', which included a directory of more than 100 innovation intermediaries.

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