Exploring the Knowledge Center for Innovation
The Knowledge Center for Innovation (KCI) is housed at the Technion’s Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management in Israel. Founded in 2008, KCI aims to accelerate innovation by disseminating information and knowledge, fostering collaboration, and establishing a network of researchers, business people and policy makers.
The KCI is part of a broader Israeli Government program supporting the creation of “Infrastructural Knowledge Centers” in a variety of fields, primarily in high tech and medicine. Knowledge centers serve as a hub for research papers and resources, as well as coordinating activities among participants in different fields. Unlike other knowledge centers, which tend to focus on high technology industries, KCI focuses on the interface between high-tech and low-tech companies (food, textiles, banking, etc.) that do not invest a lot in R&D.
KCI programs today include:
- Industry-Academia R&D consortia
- Student projects focused on innovation challenges in industry
- Educational programs for innovation management
- Consulting engagements
- The Managing for Innovation forum where both high-tech and low-tech companies build their skills through expert input and sharing best practices.
The “Managing Innovation Forum” (MIF) is a new KCI activity, started in 2010, that is most germane to the focus of the KIN Innovation Communities project in that it is aimed squarely at business leaders learning from each other about improving innovation management. 40-45 companies are involved in MIF, representing both high tech and low tech firms, and both large and small companies. Some companies are competitors, but, unlike many such networks, MIF does not shy away from that. KCI leadership wishes to promote the idea that competitors can also be collaborators and strive to create an environment in which that can happen. As the KCI has evolved, there has been increasing attention to making sure that participants from particular companies or industries do not only talk to each other but also interact with and support colleagues from unfamiliar industries.
There are 8-10 MIF meetings per year. In general, the same people come from the companies, so there is a continuity of interactions. A typical meeting begins with a lecture by a CEO or industry or academic expert. Then there is a break for dinner, and afterwards smaller groups engage in a “live case study” of a real company or industry issue, sitting around a table. One goal of this less formal interaction is to begin building relationships between high-tech and low-tech companies, fostering cross-fertilization of best practices in innovation.
One topic for future work may be improving management in general in Israel. The Israeli ecosystem is well suited for building new businesses—as highlighted in the popular book Start-Up Nation—but not as well for managing large enterprises. However, this may be changing as international companies locate in Israel and bring in management talent that mix with Israeli managers.
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of case studies on Innovation Communities being created by the Kellogg Innovation Network here at Innovation Excellence. They would sincerely appreciate it if you would contact them if you know about INets that they should consider including in their database. If you’re a leader of an INet, they will invite you to join a gathering of INet leaders that they hope to arrange next year, to review the findings of the study and take this research to the next level: What are lessons to be learned in creating INets and making them successful? It’s kind of the meta-meta level. Innovation results are the base. INets are the first meta level, which is learning about how to manage innovation to produce results. And if we can form a network of INets, that will be about learning about how to produce powerful new learning environments.
To participate in KIN’s research, please fill out their data form and they will contact you!
Mike Lippitz is a Research Fellow with the Center for Research in Technology and Innovation at the Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Illinois, a Senior Policy Analyst with the Institute for Defense Analyses in Washington, DC., and a Principal at Clareo Partners LLC. Prior positions include Special Assistant for Strategic Technology Planning in the Office of Director for Defense Research and Engineering, US Department of Defense and product line manager at Hewlett-Packard Company.