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Make Innovation Happen

By   /  December 13, 2013  /  No Comments

rsz_innoconstraintby Jennifer Zaino

The Plante Moran 2013 Innovation Survey that was recently released doesn’t have anything specifically to do with semantic, Linked Data, AI, machine learning or related technologies. But it’s hard to ignore their place in innovation, which 94 out of 100 business leaders responded is a priority for them.

The survey reported that more than 90 percent of leaders saw innovation as being important to sustainability and growth; 85 percent recorded that it matters to new or improved processes; and more than 70 percent saw its value for improved products or services, to name just a few critical areas. Most readers of this blog likely will recognize that such outcomes are often realized by companies that follow semantic and other smart and innovative technologies down paths of innovation to new offerings and other key returns (Google anyone?).

Companies still experience constraints on making innovation happen, though, one of them being lack of access to new technology, according to the survey. But the report also finds that collaboration was considered a possible jumpstarter for innovation among three out of four of the respondents.

inno chartCollaboration with whom? Research universities and startups are good places to start, whether a company is hoping to collaborate on semantic or other cutting-edge fronts that have strong footholds in both environments. For example, said Michael Camp, founder of the Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Institute at Ohio State University during a webinar discussing the survey and focusing on the topic of acquiring innovation, universities have access to some $50 billion in federal funding.

While they can still be challenging to work with because of their lack of experience with commercial applications of the work they’re doing, that’s starting to change. “Universities are coming up to speed in specific and progressive ways,” he said, including looking for corporations to partner with to be part of the process of technology development. It’s to their benefit to do so as well, since 85 percent of them are not seeing their innovative assets gain traction, he noted.

When polled during the webinar, the audience indicated that almost one-third are pursuing the path of acquiring innovation from research institutions. But for more than half it wasn’t on the radar. “That’s an opportunity lost for those companies,” said Pedro Guillen, managing partner of Kinetick Partners, a boutique innovation consulting firm. Camp advised that those who haven’t moved in that direction can start by understanding exactly where a research institution can make a contribution to the work the company needs to do.

The webinar’s panelists also pointed to innovation matchmakers that can pair innovators up with companies seeking innovation. That includes organizations such as Ringleader Ventures, where they’re working on the concept of bringing together an exceptional entrepreneur and an established enterprise to accelerate each others’ successes, according to Brian Langham, a Plante Moran partner and pro bono advisor to early stage digital and tech start-ups. He also noted that TechNexus is trying to figure out a methodology that will help big companies utilize startups to solve the problems they haven’t been able to solve in-house.

Larger companies often get weighed down in their own efforts to embrace innovation, too often failing because they don’t work from the viewpoint of being customer-driven and solving a pressing need. “So they look for alternatives, and to go outside to partner and collaborate with entrepreneurial startup enterprises,” Langham says. Camp added that startups based on innovative technologies coming out of universities “provide a really robust way for expanding ecosystem opportunities.”

It’s all good advice if you’re thinking about how semantic and related technologies can help you achieve your own goals for innovation. You can download the survey results here.

About the author

Jennifer Zaino is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology journalism. She has been an executive editor at leading technology publications, including InformationWeek, where she spearheaded an award-winning news section, and Network Computing, where she helped develop online content strategies including review exclusives and analyst reports. Her freelance credentials include being a regular contributor of original content to The Semantic Web Blog; acting as a contributing writer to RFID Journal; and serving as executive editor at the Smart Architect Smart Enterprise Exchange group. Her work also has appeared in publications and on web sites including EdTech (K-12 and Higher Ed), Ingram Micro Channel Advisor, The CMO Site, and Federal Computer Week.

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