Providing more support for companies sharing technology know-how
A Baden-Wuerttemberg initiative called “Business Technology Transfer Dialog” has fueled a new concept for a model project to introduce Innovation Angels to help bolster knowledge and technology transfer between enterprises. Aimed primarily at SMEs, the idea is to line up experienced innovation experts from industry to provide support with innovation projects. Steinbeis is responsible for managing the project.
Technologies are converging faster than in the past, the borders between fields of technology are now fuzzy, and technologies are mutually dependent. It is also increasingly important to source technologies internationally. The German economy is highly dependent on exports, but firms still feel desperate about the dearth of disruptive ideas and ways to use innovation to stay ahead of the game or even extend the lead.
The overall amount of money now invested in research and development in Germany is mainly accounted for by companies themselves. Even if most firms aim to exploit the potential offered by technology for their own products and services, this potential does not have to be limited to internal use. Sometimes ideas are not intended for immediate use, or they cannot be leveraged in isolation, or they would deliver more or subsequent value by deliberately exploiting their potential with business partners. One way to do this is to engage in “moderated partnerships,” which work on a different level from customer-supplier relationships due to the approach toward realizing opportunity together (as well as leveraging synergies and sharing risk together). Companies can be brought together based on the way they add value or the type of benefits – across different fields of technology, and not just because they share the same technology base.
Until now, there has been no systematic approach toward moderating and steering transfer between companies, at least not in Baden-Wuerttemberg. As a result, a pilot project has now been launched to draw on the experience of successful innovation experts (typically experienced business people/CEOs) and use tried-and-tested Steinbeis instruments to develop methods and processes for transferring technology on an intercompany basis. A key priority will be to establish a foundation of trust and thus provide a “safe place” for entrepreneurs and companies. As is usual with Steinbeis projects, it goes without saying that this will also involve exploiting the opportunity to transfer classic processes from primary sources.
First results already show that there is clearly discernible demand among companies for new approaches to collaboration. Companies are increasingly willing to (and sense the necessity to) unearth hitherto unexploited technology potential and work with others on adding value. This value also helps improve their competitiveness. The priority must be to explore new avenues – especially with the economy currently doing so well – to prepare businesses for the future.
Uwe Haug is an authorized signatory officer at Steinbeis Headquarters and Managing Director of Steinbeis Transfer GmbH at Reutlingen University. His main areas of work are the setting up and supervision of Steinbeis Enterprises, internationalization of the Steinbeis Network, and the ongoing development of transfer models.