Open innovation: impacting the UK’s digital economy

Daniel Tuitt is Open Innovation Specialist at Digital Catapult

Daniel Tuitt, Open Innovation Specialist at Digital Catapult, explains how open innovation has the potential to transform the mindsets of businesses and boost the UK’s digital economy.

Working within Digital Catapult’s Innovation Services team has given me the scope to work with some of the world’s biggest brands, helping them through their digital journey using open innovation.

Through targeting meaningful collaboration engagements with small businesses, innovators, experts, universities and other external partners, we’re helping them understand how technology trends such as blockchain, IoT, 5G, machine learning, virtual reality and many more can help their business.

Running a truly innovative company involves finding new ways to improve your current innovation culture, processes, skillset and strategic objectives. However, running a successful co-creation project with any external partner demands much more.

Open innovation: the ability to partner with someone to support breakthroughs

Debunking open innovation

I am a strong proponent of using collaboration to accelerate creativity across all sectors. However, numerous people I speak to say they do not have a grasp of the ideology, thinking it is similar to open source software or some sort of supply chain management (which it is not). Henry Chesbrough, the originator of open innovation, defines it as:

Open innovation is the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively.”

In a nutshell, it is the ability to partner with someone who has complementary resources to support breakthroughs. Many experts in the space believe that open innovation and innovation will be one and the same in the not so distant future, just like the need to work with external partners has become paramount to drive ground-breaking discoveries.

“Big, small, private and public organisations can’t afford to miss out on open innovation”

Digital co-creation: a force for good

The business world is changing at an unprecedented speed; elements such as digitisation threaten to disrupt the way organisations operate at a breakneck pace. To combat such challenges, big, small, private and public organisations cannot afford to miss embracing open innovation. Nobody can brave this new world alone!

British companies such as Burberry, British Airways, BAE Systems, Barclays, Dyson, UBS and the NHS are using digital transformation and open innovation in the right way. To keep up, the openness to collaborate and create needs to be a part of any organisation’s digital diet to excel and stay relevant to their customers. If open innovation is managed in the right way, originality can thrive to manoeuvre the complexity and challenges associated with innovation.

Open innovation’s impact on UK growth and businesses

While working with Digital Catapult, I was able to work with a number of different organisations across sectors and understand how vital open innovation has become to the UK’s digital economy. The digital economy currently only contributes 7% of the UK’s national output, with the potential for more digital growth opportunities.

Opening up to external partners can be highly beneficial for organisations

Organisations need to be prepared to open up and innovate more effectively; the digital economy is forever shifting with mounting pressure to innovate with numerous technologies. To ensure organisations are at the forefront of digital change, they need to open up to external partners to innovate better and faster than ever before.

Digital transformation and open innovation

Open innovation has become the de facto tool to support organisations’ collaborative efforts. There have been countless success stories, which have developed new offerings, solved a complex problem/industry challenge or disrupted the whole industry. Some organisations such as Philips Research MiPlaza campus has gone so far to even create their own open innovation systems environment, granting them access to:

  • Unlimited innovation partners through their networks, who provide novel technology concepts.
  • A well-developed infrastructure that aligns with their strategies, utilises untapped knowledge and involves innovation brokers.
  • The right processes and governances to manage intellectual property and external relationships.
  • Successful spin-offs of small organisations, from inside out research projects such as Silicon Hive and Liquavista.
  • A campus innovation ecosystem that has over 90 organisations without silos, allowing ideas to flow freely across diverse networks.

This has enabled the most pioneering organisations to build the capabilities to collaborate with the outside world.

Digital Catapult’s Innovation Services team host various Pit Stops and open innovation activities

Sadly, it is not feasible for every organisation to build their own open innovation incubator. Many organisations do not have the resources, time, or do not want to commit to such a venture alone. Other reasons may involve a long-standing culture around secrecy during the research and development stages, not forgetting the “not invented here” syndrome — a mindset discounting any external ideas.

Ensuring a legacy of digital innovation

Adopting open innovation should never be an isolated decision for any organisation. The journey to improve your digital capabilities can be catastrophic without the right trusted advisors and knowledgeable facilitators.

There is no doubt that the digital economy and the innovation that comes with it is changing the way the UK’s sectors operate when compared to the rest of the world. Most recently, Britain was once again voted by the Global Innovation Index 2016 as one of the top three innovative countries in the world, for both overall performance worldwide and innovation quality. I believe this success is strengthened by Britain’s long-standing ability to adapt to emerging challenges that impact the way businesses scale and remain competitive through collaboration.

The Innovation Services team at Digital Catapult is designed to be an enabler for digital growth and innovation to thrive across the UK economy. Make sure you get involved through our Pit Stops and highly focused open innovation activities, which are designed to accelerate the growth of new ideas across various industries.

Daniel Tuitt is Open Innovation Specialist at Digital Catapult. You can follow him on Twitter @DanielTuitt and on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to follow us too @DigiCatapult.

Don’t miss out on the chance to innovate with us and find new solutions at our Visa Retail Pit Stop — submit your interest before 13 September 2016.

Originally published at on August 31, 2016.