Even the sharpest leading edge companies can no longer survive on their own R&D efforts, but must open up their networks and collaborate with others: this was the main message from an expert meeting held at the OECD on 27 April called “Globalisation and Open Innovation”.
Take Philips. Previously its Dutch headquarters was a fairly foreboding, secret place where ideas were honed in labs and protected, before being rolled out to the market. Today, it is an open campus with thousands of researchers whose job is to network, exchange ideas and above all, innovate.“Innovation is a buzzword now, even if not everyone is sure what it means”, one participant said. It is not just about widgets or technology, but about policies and reactive thinking to create new opportunities. It is also about knowing how to deal with downsides of new products and services.Kicking off a two-year programme, workshop participants heard how innovation was itself changing. The OECD plans to launch its own innovation strategy this year, which will include a checklist of best practices designed to help governments push the envelope on innovation.Different countries have different levels of R&D. While many could boost theirs, merely pumping up R&D can hide the finer print, about education, business environments, innovation culture, infrastructure, and so on. Also, while governments know that holding on to intellectual capital is important, innovating also means knowing where to let go. Compartmentalising researchers is certainly a barrier: “in the US they get more value per dollar because engineers in the defence area also work in the civil area,” one European research engineer points out. Open-ended collaboration means cross-fertilisation and innovation across the board.The hope is that countries that feel they lack some basic elements, including a culture for innovation, will be able to flourish in this new open-ended, collaborative global atmosphere provided they get some of the frameworks right, participants believe. That includes developing nations. Economic opportunities should become more evenly spread as a result. RJC
OECD Observer N° 261 May 2007