The Market for Open Innovation (2013)

An interesting study was published recently on the Open Innovation Market (The 2013 RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey), developed by RWTH Aachen University, under the guidance of Prof. Frank Piller, who has interesting ideas and important data for this new sector. In this post I shall present the main points of this study and some reflections.

Open Innovation (OI) is the set of processes and practices that enable companies to identify and integrate external knowledge to solve innovation challenges. Service companies and platforms dedicated to this search and its integration in the innovation business are called OIAs (Open Innovation Accelerators).

We distinguish two groups of OIAs: those that apply open innovation processes on behalf of their clients and provide a solution to a particular challenge, and those that help clients formulate their
own challenges. In this sense, the OI process designed by NCUB (National Centre for Universities and Business) in order to coordinate these University-Business efforts is also very interesting:


Source : “Best Practice Strategies for successful Innovation through University-Business Collaboration”

The observation of IOA groups and their business models suggests the pursuit of innovation is shifting in two ways:

  • Those following innovation from its source (startups, research groups, technology centers), moving “upstream” towards innovative, disruptive or incremental technological solutions.
  • Those following the voice of the market, or “downstream,” listening to its needs and proposing ways to change the service or product strategy.

 The services that OIAs usually offer include:

  • Workshops, i.e., managing communities of innovation problem solvers
  • Contests for services dedicated to solving innovation challenges or problems
  • Searching for market solutions by reengineering or reinventing products
  • Searching for disruptive or incremental technological solutions – existing patents – in certain ecosystems.

Each of these models differ in the way they contribute to solving specific challenges and how the collaborative process begins:

  • Open Calls to experts to identify how an innovation challenge can be solved.
  • Search for relevant information or experts according to a particular challenge.
  • Calls to experts, but in the context of a given set of potential participants or related ecosystems (a hybrid of the previous two).

 The number of market participants is not large. Some 200 OIAs are thought to exist worldwide, most very different in nature, ranging from reinventing brands to the search for creative work. The size of innovation communities, which manage each OIA model, differs by type:


Source: The Market for Open Innovation (2013 RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey)

Open Innovation is a rapidly growing market, with an estimated current value of 2.7 billion in 2013, with expected growth of up to 5.5 billion in 2015.


Source: The Market for Open Innovation (2013 RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey)

The market is dominated by companies that offer resolution services for innovation challenges based on contests or calls (80% of the current share), although the highest relative growth will be experienced by “market share” and “technical search” processes. The high expectations arising from intense mergers and acquisitions in the coming years are both interesting and typical of any growing sector.


Source : The Market for Open Innovation (2013 RWTH Open Innovation Accelerator Survey)

Some of the OI models feature a software services platform. From the clients’ perspective, the OIA market has two distinguishing key features:

Software plays an important role in any OI initiative. Web 2.0 and social networking technologies can operate globally and integrate many participants, resulting in a large number of transactions. In 90 percent of cases, OIAs present different technological solutions, although most are technologies to be implemented in clients, based on licensing agreements.

To build their network, OIAs get different ecosystems involved. The main goal is to “look outside the box.” On average, OIAs manage a pool of around 20,000 participants in the community. For platforms that seek technological solutions such communities can reach 100,000 members.

The average cost of an OI project is 43,000 but it varies greatly depending on the nature of the business and its models (from 12 for a basic subscription describing the OIA to 164,000 for OI consulting services). In the latter case, experience in investment, negotiation and consultant analysis is key.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects not covered today is how these OI processes are brought together by integrating the four system agents (companies, startups, universities/technology centers, and venture capital funds/business angels), at present not covered by OIA models (although SUNN, the StartUp Neural Network, is an exception):

  • Discovering process innovation possibilities.
  • Scouting, creating an ecosystem of innovation actors for each company or startup, VC fund or university research group.
  • Matching, organizing the deal flow for each agent and detecting sources of innovation.
  • Cooperation, to allow a direct relationship between innovation buyers and sellers.
  • Contests, by facilitating open calls for solving specific challenges affecting competitiveness.

Innovation is not the property of few but the talent of many. This industry of co-creation, co-talent or co-discovery, of Open Innovation, requires access to networks and the development of systemic thinking in order to build competitive advantages in the shortest possible time, against economies of scale. Spain is still lagging behind in this respect but there is no doubt that employers increasingly understand the role of open innovation as a path to competitiveness.

Carlos Marquerie

CEO of 4 Innovation


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Art, Science and Innovation

Will you allow me to talk about innovation, but from another point of view? In fact I feel I must …

 What is the relationship between science and music? You will doubtless think that music is itself a science – and you will be right. But perhaps the most interesting part of the comparison is the similarity between the ordeal of the scientist and the ordeal of the artist in their hope to succeed in our country.

 That amounts to the same as saying we Spaniards find it hard to admit to the existence of superior talent. Envy and our own inbreeding prevents us from detecting, applauding and feeling proud of the brilliant talent of others. It is so intense that we envy their money and lives of luxury while despising their talent. We don’t even falsely envy that.

Talent, as far as I’m concerned, is superior to scientific or artistic intelligence. Its conception breaks the mold and draws from some kind of genetic, parallel, divine or natural information, making the individual a wonderful messenger of the aesthetics of natural equilibrium, the golden structure, the inner balance of the invisible yet perceived, something felt, heard and contemplated. Something with the power to touch our perceptions and our reasoning. It involves devoting 99% of one’s life to mental and manual toil, and the other 1% waiting for inspiration to strike. That vital one percent goes unrecognized most of the time.

Take, for example, great jazz musicians. Some of those I’ve been fortunate enough to meet were very young, exceptionally classy, with an understanding of melody, harmony and rhythm that was quite literally off the scales. And not just jazz. They seem to connect with a source from beyond their years and yet there they are, unshackled by inexperience. Dinah Washington and Billy Holliday at the age of 22 or 27. At least they can hear the voice of the customer, and the applause.

I have also had the fortune to meet many young scientists with brilliant ideas on how to transform the world from their small area of research. Some of them go abroad because they cannot find understanding or a place to grow in our country. How many young scientists have made fortunes here? I, for one, do not know…

How many hours have they dedicated to their talent? Must they clock in and out, or are they always “on”? Do they always have credit on their phones? Do unions strike in their defense or have the nameless few in the SGAE (the Society for Authors and Publishers) capitalized on anonymous talents, who have surrendered their knowledge unwittingly and unpaid? Many started out with plenty of talent but few resources, and will die amid their worn instruments and crumpled papers. But except for their own bitterness, which they cannot control, you will never hear a single chord of complaint from them, let alone the utopian viability of an invention. Others registered their properties before notaries after a couple of years, or had companies, and long ago left it all to follow their pursuits, for the love of their art.

It is a terrible problem we face, the envy of grey people. We do not know what to do with superior talent. Talented people frighten us, are an unforeseen, uncontrollable, unpredictable cost, aliens, weirdos with ideas. They are not from the club, the family, the core. Rather they are an opportunity for those who dwell beneath, competition for the neighbors next door, and a threat to those who peer from above. Dreadful. We’ll never value them, unless of course they have made a fortune. But then we’ll appreciate their talent! Oh yes, when they invite us aboard their yacht in Ibiza.

Top talent is the worst enemy of grey people, of the bosses in today’s economies. But we have to admit to our greyness, which is why we like to see grey people on television, which by the way are far from rosy cheeked. And not because we are not smart, but because we spend our time twiddling our thumbs, watching our navel (as we say in Spanish). And we do not even have the generosity to find alternatives for talent to excel. That’s why Rafael Nadal is key and king among Spaniards, because he is almost the only talent, sacrifice and personality who is unquestionably Spanish. And though I rejoice in that thought, I can’t help but notice we are surrounded by wonderful beings with powers and enormous talent that could help change the face of Spain. A country that will not swerve from its current plan to lower costs and project an image of a country run by wise managers, but which, like Japan, needs to invest in innovation, regardless.

And it’s not a matter of creating another government body with a silly name like “the Spanish Agency for the Promotion of Talent” where friends of the Party could go with other elephants from old graveyards. There’s no need for any of this. We should not envy these people. We just have to admit we will never connect with the natural intelligence that allows them to overcome the barriers of the unknown and surprise us with new approaches, “out of the box” ideas, new melodies or harmonies in music and science that make us happy and may, on occasion, change our lives.

But no. It seems that the Spanish do not want to pay for all this, for that talent. They’ll pay for nonsense and whims, despite the crisis. But not for science, for art. I’m surprised by the very long hours and complex knowledge that professional musicians have had to invest in developing their talents and excel in a succession of moments, hundredths of a second, upbeats, before landing on their feet, without anyone understanding or appreciating any of it. I refer obviously to the professional musician, not to the “la la la” band. How much is that moment of living creativity worth? For many, it seems, less than the cost of a “relaxing cafe con leche” (which the mayor of Madrid famously recommended to the International Olympic Committee).

How much are you willing to pay for access to creativity and innovation? Is talent, innovation, creativity a public good we should socialize until it’s free? I’m afraid not, as has happened with the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). I fear that for the time being what’s left for the scientist, the artist or the musician is their art, their science, their vision …and maybe some funding from the 7th Framework Programme.

If their talent is unappreciated and deemed worthless in Spain, they will surely take it elsewhere. And I insist, it is not the fault of public policy but a national social (and fiscal) behavior that reacts adversely to talent and innovation. If we must look at life as a hat, instead of like a snake that has eaten an elephant (as Antoine de Saint Exupery put it), the Asians will blast us off the creativity map. If we do not change our culture of innovation, we will be invaded by poverty, and it is clear that the welfare state will no longer give us a free ride, by way of outright grants or vacuous government posts, where talent takes refuge like a social misfit.

If we are not willing to pay for talent, at least let’s be generous: we can acknowledge it, greet it, promote it, embrace it and feel the pride of having, though not owning or possessing, both the creators and their ideas.

“Art endeavors to educate us by revealing the least visible aspects of things.”

(Alfredo Marqueríe (1907-1974) , “Land and Love, the Praise and the Sea” from the book “23 Poems,” 1927, quoting Giovanni Papini (1886-1958), opening the section on Praise)

Yours in hope and innovation.

Carlos Marquerie

CEO of 4 Innovation


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SUNN (Start Up Neural Network): Discovering Innovation

Innovation requires discovery. To discover is a verb implying creativity and research; to discover is also to realize there was something we did not know. It seems reasonable to think that everything that is not discovery improves matters.

Discovery is a very healthy, willful act in which we strive to distinguish ourselves from the rest of our competitors … even if it just means to experiment with soft drinks. We ultimately want our search for new worlds to have meaning, a differentiation that the market can perceive and value. If the end customer fails to perceive any added value and is unwilling to pay for it, innovation is reduced to a mere theoretical, intellectual exercise.

But while innovation is based on discovery, the problem so far has been how to put the wheels of creativity in motion, how to know what you are looking for or how to find what is being sought by others. Each agent in an innovation system (research groups and technology centers and institutes, companies, startups/spin-offs, and venture capital/business angels) seeks disruption for different reasons: for financial reasons (financial investment), for strategic reasons (strategic investment), for reasons of scientific cooperation, to develop the “second floor” of a patent, for commercial reasons, and so on. He or she who does not know what to look for rarely finds it, and therefore cannot discover.

To date, the flow of transactions in an innovation system, be it in Spain or the United States, Colombia, Israel, or Singapore, has been based on static information or low capillarity to companies that need said innovation. And it does seem that those companies seeking innovation suffer the most neglect, as they will receive very little information about new findings that may affect the competitiveness of their business.


The international startups looking for investment that we meet often have interesting potential, both strategically and financially. But it is impossible to drum up attention for them in a network as wide and complex as is the universe of funds and companies interested in emerging or disruptive technologies. The only way to make them known is to harness the power of their own contacts, their newsletters, emails etc. That is, by conducting some very limited technological brokerage and organizing events. Commercial activities “below the line” are virtually impossible and mostly very expensive. Just ask the Research Transfer Offices, whose work has been commendable when it comes to commercializing research, but always with a low market reach and a very low budget for achieving such ambitious goals.

In innovation systems, particularly in Spain, the agents are unseen, are hard to pin down, tend to move in the dark, unless someone contacts them.

The universities are not seen by companies; companies do not know what universities do; companies do not generally invest with funds (pledge fund); the startups hardly know each other and then only at the regional level; the funds watch the startups but not the university spin offs, and the universities do not know the demand for innovation, or even how to find out…


There is no awareness of the real supply or demand in innovation, which is really decisive, and therein lies one of the reasons we do not have any divested markets, much as we have conferences and events on entrepreneurship. The ignorance is such that sometimes there have been investments in young technology entrepreneurs, when the solution had actually been invented 10 years earlier.


To overcome this deficiency in the innovation system, Spain has just seen the creation of the Alpha version (i.e. in registration alone, for now) of its first neural network in the cloud. It will have an international reach and aims to solve two strategic unknowns for the world of innovation: the discovery and the connection between the agents in the system.

This platform is called SUNN (Start Up Neural Network), a system modeled on Israel’s innovation system and whose proof of concept has been carried out in Israel, the U.S. and Singapore, and supported by Madrid Network and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness.



SUNN is based on the idea of ​​differentiating ecosystems (innovation bidders) from industries (innovation seekers) and connecting them through Innovation Maps and so-called InnoBox, inboxes through which flow disruptive deals, research groups, innovation seekers and venture capital funds.


Starting with a standard international questionnaire that any venture capital fund would insist on to protect its investment, the system opens windows of neuronal connections between companies, universities, funds and startups to deliver 15-day innovation cycles to each one, containing the best proposals in national and international innovation.




The ecosystems add innovation sources: patents, research groups, spin offs, startups. And they develop in innovation cells (icells) and Key Enabler Technologies (KETs). The SUNN platform was modeled on a study of the innovation system used in Israel, and was later tested in the U.S. and Singapore.


Basically it brings together five major “world class” source ecosystems (innovation repositories), where international venture capital funds and the international demand for innovation are concentrated: Energy, Cleantech (water and waste treatment), advanced ICTs, Life Sciences and New Materials, Electronics & Components. These source ecosystems are transforming the world and this spreads to other areas: aeronautics, smart cities, fintech, agrofood, etc.


The basic ecosystem agents are the inventors (patents), research groups, startups and spin offs.

Below you can see the Ecosystems, with Icells and Kets:


Industries / Clusters


Moreover, SUNN includes the traditional industrial classification and displays industrial capabilities by sector and connects them to the ecosystems. The idea is to know how to innovate fundamental skills and project them in four areas of innovation: core competencies, added value, diversification and troubleshooting Alpha problems, which require co-creation and open and closed innovation networks.


Industry agents are primarily the companies that SUNN targets: equipping small, medium and large enterprises with the opportunity to access a world of possibilities, now almost confined to internal research departments, emails, or complex systems of competitive intelligence, surveillance or static databases.


Funding and the last mile of innovation


This neural network includes a cooperation “workflow,” based on international scientific protocols and venture capital, so that in the platform framework the agents of a system can propose agreements and joint projects. These processes, should they require funding, are transmitted to international InnoBox venture capital funds.


Moreover, the system has implemented an Observatory, the possibility to perform international technology “sanity checks”, a risk analysis engine, a virtual investment committee, startup ratings, etc.



Discovering Innovation


The complex algorithm implemented for the discovery and matching of innovation, like many other aspects, comes from the relationship between industrial capabilities – ecosystem icells, and between icells and icells, which will not only discover new opportunities for competitive growth through disruptive technologies, but also perform smart matching between the agents of an innovation system. All these complex algorithms are resolved in a fantastic graphic called “My Ecosystem World”, which discovers the world of disruptive innovation for companies or venture capital funds, or the world of innovation demand for startups and research groups:


All transactions in the system are contained in The Diverse (The Disruptive Universe), which will indicate the broad trends of innovation, and which resembles a web of relationships between innovation cells:




The geostrategic area of this platform covers four regions: Asia, America, Europe and Israel. Currently it already has 2000 disruptive startups, 500 research groups, 5000 innovation-seeking businesses and 200 venture capital funds


The beta version of SUNN is expected to be finalized in December, after which, in March 2014, it will be presented in Boston and Singapore. Important national and international universities, economic development agencies and industrial corporations have already signed up as beta testers.


I encourage you to register ( to start discovering new blue oceans (in English, the language of innovation) … and hope that the Chinese, Indians and Koreans do not decide to fish there too. At the end of the day if Asian purchasing power continues to increase they may lose production but will head straight into stormy waters (attracting scientists and research centers), in which the Spanish may have neither shipyards nor boats, nor disruptive technologies or ideas, to compete with them in the world of added value.

Carlos Marquerie

CEO of 4 Innovation


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Smart Specialisation and RIS3

Smart Specialisation, under RIS3, is defined by the Joanneum Research Institute in Graz as “an entrepreneurial process of discovery, identifying where a region can benefit from specialisation in a particular area of science and technology.”

RIS3 (Research and Innovation Smart Specialisation Strategy) is the implementation of this concept by the European Commission, which requires the design of a research and development strategy, beginning with a consensus view of the transformation of regional economy into something more competitive and sustainable in the long term.

One of the key missions of this program is the proper use of Structural Funds, which can be used more effectively and to increase synergies between different EU, national and regional policies, as well as public and private investments.

 According to the Commission, smart specialisation is essential for really effective investment in research and innovation. In the European Commission’s proposal on cohesion policy in the 2014-2020 period there will be a precondition for the use of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in 2014-2020 to support these investments.

Some RIS3 policy objectives that I would like to emphasize are:

– Making innovation a priority for all regions. In this sense, the statement that “Europe 2020 requires that policy makers consider the interrelationship of different aspects of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” is very important.

– Focusing on investment and closing synergies: “RIS3 focuses economic development efforts and investments in the relative strengths of each region, and European funding complements private investment.”

– Improving the innovation process, establishing priorities in the context of strategic intelligence on the assets of a region, its challenges, its competitive advantages and potential for excellence.

– Developing and implementing strategies for economic transformation, which include:

  1. Technological diversification from existing specialisations in related fields
  2. Development of new economic activities through radical technological change and cutting-edge innovations
  3. Taking advantage of new forms of innovation, such as open and user-driven innovation, social innovation and service innovation.
  4. Making regions more visible for international investors by focusing on what gives a region its greatest competitive potential.

In this sense, the European Commission stresses that it is important to highlight the experience of a region in an area of ​​knowledge or market niche and help increase specialisation. To achieve this it has launched a Smart Specialisation Platform (Eye @ RIS3), supervised by a management team with experts from the European Commission and Mirror Groups of “high level” European experts.

As a result, if you look at this platform and the results of specialisation in European regions and their target markets, we find the following:vRIS3 is undoubtedly a breakthrough with clear strategic value for Europe 2020, based on the specialisation of regions and therefore decentralization, rather than “coffee for everyone” as we say in Spanish. This program, therefore, suggests regional competitiveness, establishing a roadmap between industrial sectors and emerging technologies (which in our terminology would be the Ecosystems). However, if you look at the discussions happening in some regions, in Spain and in the rest of Europe, it seems that the sources of these regional competitive advantages must be based on the organic development of existing sectors by applying technological innovation. The possibility of building new regional ecosystems does not seem to be taken into consideration (for example, nanocellulose as a potential substitute for graphene).

In my opinion, it would have been interesting if RIS3 had clearly defined what industrial capabilities, industries and ecosystems are.

If industrial capabilities can be defined as a set of skills and knowledge for the development of business activities, such as electrochemical capabilities, the modification of aluminum or plastic, 3D design, etc.; if “industry” implies the grouping of different economic sectors such as the textile industry, services, aeronautics, etc.; and if the ecosystems are intelligent groupings of disruptive technologies (such as energy storage, neural networks, smart grids, biomaterials, etc.), then you should think seriously about the basic capabilities of a region and their connection with ecosystems, which would lead to the following scenarios (Spanish Version):

Image                 Source: 4Innovation

As can be seen, ecosystems define Innovation Routes or Maps as strategic goals, while the industrial sectors demand innovation as a starting point for competitive growth. The bridge between them is precisely the existing industrial capabilities that can be used in the construction of ecosystems, from the metalworking industry to the medical devices ecosystem, from the textile industry to the ecosystem of intelligent components, and so on.

Starting out with what Spain already has just to reach the same point does not seem to be a suitable route. To set out with what we have in order to reach new “blue oceans” is the true path of innovation.

This strategy is, in my opinion, the basis of the current strategic concept in a complicatedly systemic economic world. A world in which the future is not in any particular industry but in a blend of all of them. A world in which growth results from the application of innovation capabilities to different industries (in the way Apple or Samsung have done, from their innovation capabilities to books, music, video, movie rentals, TV, etc.).

Today innovation is the road to competitiveness: building competitive factors which provide us with windows of differentiation rather than large scale competition. And that, looking towards RIS3, would mean building innovation ecosystems and regional cells, based on our skills and lateral thinking (crossnovation), as networking would turn Spain into an interesting market for investment and divestment.

And here’s an interesting thought from RIS3: Regions must be more specialised in order to be smarter … but they have to be very smart in order to specialise really well.

Carlos Marquerie

CEO of 4 Innovation


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