Innovation as a Service!

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a well known acronym for software distribution model in which applications are hosted by a vendor, and made available to customers over the Internet. Can this concept be applied to innovation? As a matter of fact, we see a growing number of initiatives where innovation endeavor is hosted outside the company, in accelerators or tech companies premises, incubating the corporate innovation project, and potentially leading to startups creation out of large company innovation engine. Who said that large companies can’t innovate?

Open Innovation services

Open Innovation coaching has been soaring for some time now. For instance:

  • Paris&Co leads the Open Innovation Club, to foster business relationship involving startups, medium-size corporates, and large companies; one fruitful event is the Innovation Datings between startups and large companies: upon a selected topic, 20 startups pitch their concept in front of 30 large companies; Paris&Co coaches concurrently 18 incubation spaces hosting 500 startups in Paris, and some of them are thematic incubators (gaming, tourism, city, sport, e-health, real estate), involving directly large companies in cooperation with startups;
  • Numa Paris accelerator proposes 2 services for corporates: Shift, and Explore. While Shift is focused on prototyping a business opportunity, Explore is an open innovation sandbox (3-6 months) for large companies to experiment with a network of entrepreneurs. In partnership with Roland Berger consulting boutique, Numa recently announced 3 additional coaching lines: Lab Digital, Start-up Studio, and Digital Inside. Lab Digital explores innovation initiatives in a ‘test&learn’ approach, Start-up Studio is an excubator generating disruptive start-ups from within corporates, Digital Inside tackles digital transformation of the company.
  • Player, founded by Marylène Vicari, is the place to commit for collective innovation in the heart of Paris: it blends up prospectivists, startups, digital artists, sociologists, social entrepreneurs, researchers, facilitators, developers, and… large companies, to get inspired, immersed, tripped up, and generate creative and transformative ideas.

Outcubation services

Aligned with the Start-up Studio previously mentioned, several tech companies or consultancy have opened their doors to host startup projects, outcubated from large companies. Outcubation targets breakthrough innovation projects, hosting top talent outside of the company, in a stimulating environment, which can be in the premises of IBM, Google, or 650 Labs, as shown in the following examples.

  • IBM Bluemix Garage is trying to fix innovation engine in large companies, shifting mental models, letting projects move in short cycle, and helping more traditional companies to act as if they were startups. It aims at building engaging applications using IBM Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and Agile Devops methodologies.
  • In the Garage, you can  prototype apps related to IoT, Data, and Cloud, with IBM Bluemix cloud platform, bringing together capabilities from IBM Watson and MobileFirst, and third party APIS like Twilio.
  • IBM Garage footprint footprint is international, and embedded within tech incubators in some of the world’s largest startup communities: San Francisco, London, Toronto, Nice, and Melbourne. IBM settled concurrently a series of studios over the world, cultural centers fo design, and helping companies in digital transformation.
  • Stéphanie Fastre handles global innovation & creativity programs, like the Google peer-to-peer, user-centered and prototype driven learning program, Google CSI (Creative Skills for Innovation). Google develops an acceleration lab dedicated to the most important projects of corporates, and Stéphanie will share a few elements about it during our next call in Marc. Stay tuned, I will update this post accordingly!
  • 650Labs has a singular value proposition for outcubation that Daniel Tyoschitz explains: ‘Many companies come to Silicon Valley for a week, they take pictures, and nothing happens. Sometimes, they have a technological team, to build product innovation, but hey are very isolated. The optimal way is to come and experience the way of working in the Silicon Valley, and rotate, people bringing back home the new way of working. We analyzed GAFA and successful unicorns, how they make decisions (consensual), their culture, organization, skills, and extracted 25 characteristics. We handle 2 days workshop with very senior executives, and dig in two of these characteristics, re-engineering the process, flipping the variables: innovation entices to work differently.
  • The Pop Up Innovation Lab is another offer from 650Labs, tailored for multinationals seeking to dramatically increase their capabilities to innovate, and bring new high-­value products and services to market. The lab is here to work on company most important projects, like a new business unit, with a team coming to Silicon Valley, to accelerate the project and work out something new. Strategy, up-scaling, lean start-up for enterprise, design thinking, big data, storytelling are mobilized. Corporates also meet with startups that can contribute to the acculturation. The Lab is 4 weeks long, takes places 7 times a year, with a team of 4 people: clients will complete seven strategic initiatives on an annualized basis and will have tooled up 28 internal change agents. We are not consultants, we are enablers: we let you do it yourself, it’s outcubation’.
  • Yoann Jaffre presents the Open Innovation Lab he has shaped at BNP Paribas Bank. OI Lab has developed 2 acceleration programs ‘as a service’: Innov & Connect and  Fintech Insurtech acceleration programs. The first connects 8 startups from various industries with one of the 12 medium-size sponsoring companies. The second selects 8 startups as well,  and pairs them to BNPParibas business lines. Both programs hosts startups for 6 months in Wai Paris, trains and coaches them (potential pivot), to deliver a collaborative POC within 4 months.

Cross corporations innovation

Outcubation takes a staggering dimension with Cisco Chill, which invites several companies to take part in a ‘Cisco Hyper Innovation Living Labs’.

  • Cisco Chill provides disruptive innovation calls for multi-party, multi-disciplinary, hybrid business models solutions. Chill brings together industry leaders to collaborate in innovation – to compress the cycle from months to days to hours! Cisco shares feedback from a retail case: ‘in a 48 hour period, the group created solid prototypes that they forecast could deliver billions of dollars of economic value to retail’. It’s not pure magic! There is work upsteam of the 48 hours: an initial 12 week process culminates in 2 days of ideation, prototyping and ultimately, funding decisions.
  • ‘US Chill lab takes place in Building 11 of Cisco’s rambling campus just outside San Jose. It’s a mad scientist’s playhouse, something that Q in James Bond might relish, full of gadgets and drones, telepresence robots, and re-useable materials.’ tells PCMag. Everything is available at your fingertips for creating prototypes with robotics, virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D printing, Raspberry, CAD, Wi-Fi, BLE, and RFID, and even a Warp Accelerated Rapid Prototyping (WARP) kit. ‘It looks like a glorious place of experimentation but it’s serious business: the work completed, 4 working prototypes with investment ready business cases, is to be exposed to Cisco’s R&D, innovation engine and funding divisions, and can lead to startups creation’, says Kate O’Keeffe, managing director of Chill.
  • At Orange, we are mixing several industries within an Orange IoT & Data Cross Lab: we believe IoT is a perfect playground for cooperation across companies, and that an audience mixing several companies, and crossing different viewpoints, will generate utterly disruptive ideas. Orange Cross Lab is designed with the help of Claro Partners, a consultancy with a focus on IoT, design, and startups. It leverages crowdsourcing web site for creative ideas, Imagine with Orange, to nurture the creative expedition, the Orange Design team to turn ideas into concepts and experience, and the Orange IoT platform, Datavenue and Orange API to support prototyping.
  • Through the Cross Lab, Orange offers a framed opportunity to selected partners to share their issues and perspectives on IoT, build a shared vision of their future and create it together, and eventually turn partners into Datavenue customers. Completely adaptable to different partners’ expectations, Cross Lab can be conducted in any country over Orange footprint. Four tangible concepts come out of the one week Lab, each including value proposition, features and underlying technology, business model & ecosystem definition, marketing stories & understanding of competition, and being pitched in front of a C-level jury. Then teams develop pre-selected propositions into prototypes for proof of concept.

What’s the message?

Following all these examples, shall we consider that there is absolutely no chance for innovation to thrive within the walls of the corporation? And is it a pain or a gain? Surely, if every creative initiative had to be outcubated, it would be damageable in the sense that the company would not leverage its assets. This trend clearly shows another face of open innovation and cocreation, demonstrating the unstoppable growth of this way of working.

Nevertheless I don’t think these experiences show the end of internal innovation: while incremental innovation fits within the traditional company business frame, outcubation places are designed for specific, disruptive, and highly transformative projects. This is not the pace for generic innovation, this is about giving birth to a new business unit.

These experiences opens door for intense exploration, wide-eyes open scouting, focus and engagement, taking one step back, considering the big picture, observing usages and unfolding untapped opportunities, thinking collectively in term of ecosystem and platform, fully focusing your time and energy for a few days on the innovation challenge.

Furthermore, they train innovators, that once back home, will propagate the innovation virus, and act as agents of change once back within the company’s walls, sparkling innovation internally.

image credits: Paris&Co, Numa, Player, IBM Bluemix Garage, Google, 650Labs, BNP Paribas Innov&Connect, Cisco Chill, Orange

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Nicolas is Chief Innovation Officer at Orange Valley, an agile entity within Orange Innovation where he sets up creative units for new business in the digital industry, and structures incubation of internal and external startups and Open innovation programs. He is an international speaker, coach, innovation teacher and freelance consultant for the European Community. Follow @nicobry


Nicolas Bry

Serial innovator, Nicolas has set up creative units for new business at Orange, Club-Internet, and SFR. Nicolas created crowd platform, Orange Studio for Intrapreneurs, and edits Open Innovation blog International speaker, entrepreneurs & startups coach, innovation teacher at Telecom ParisTech, HEC & CentraleSupélec, and freelance consultant (ECC). Follow him at @nicobry.




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