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May 4, 2012
Collaborative innovation attracts academic and industry leaders alike
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Industry leaders and academics are turning to open innovation.The buzz words of 2012 are officially “collaborative innovation.”  A 3-second Google search yields more than 3 million results containing these keywords. The basic idea is that many minds are better than one, especially when the demand for creativity and innovation is higher than ever before. By utilizing collaborative innovation, business managers and executives are tapping experts outside the physical walls of their office -- experts with a genuine desire solve challenging problems. 

Collaborative innovation works because experts from different fields are able to collaborate online with no physical location barriers. These experts enjoy the opportunity to work with one another and expand their knowledge base across new fields. Breakthrough discoveries tend to emerge at the intersection of two unrelated disciplines; for examples, just Google computation biology, nanotechnology, or geoengineering. 

There are numerous companies involved in the collaborative innovation process these days, and they’re not all focusing on research and development. Check out this comprehensive list of open-source innovation websites organized by category. Perhaps the most recognizable name in the entire list is InnoCentive -- a name I’ve referenced before as an innovation authority. And now, Nature is collaborating with InnoCentive to attract academic professionals to the game. 

Nature is a prestigious publication that features scientific research in areas such as vaccines, environmental science, stem cells, and career advice. Nature and InnoCentive are working together to provide the readers of Nature with the opportunity to “apply expertise to important problems, stretch creative boundaries, and win cash awards.” There are over 100 challenges available as of today. Each problem is unique, and in many cases, only a written proposal is needed to submit a solution to a problem, and a cash award is provided in exchange for intellectual property rights. 

The pressure to innovate may be higher in industry than academia.  While there are multiple reasons for this, but I speculate that it's associated with the basic differences between industry and academia – profits and investors. In other words, innovation is more important for companies than for individual researchers in academia when investors are involved. However, it is the individual researcher’s responsibility in academia to bring in new funds for the institution. Either way, innovation is undeniably crucial to growth and development in the current economic climate. 

Collaborative innovation, or open innovation, is inherently social.  For so many years, research and development has been driven by a small group of experts working together, as a team.  Well, the team just got larger, much larger. You may have also seen my post on crowdsourcing recently, which is a similar innovation concept.  Open innovation and crowdsourcing have been made possible by the Internet, and are clearly a sign of the times. For more information, check out this Brainyard article about the necessity of collaborative innovation in the post-2008 work world. 

Even here at Patexia, we encourage industry and academic experts to use collaborative innovation as an integral part of business. So, get involved, share your expertise, and tell us what you’re working on!  

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