Innovation is stimulated through the exchange with others. Networking is an important foundation for this. There are extremely few areas of business that can survive without networking, but that does not make it a guaranteed key to success. It is only when people know exactly how to network, with whom, and when, that the notion of networking transforms into reality and fuels successful alliances. Strategies have to be developed but at the same time, companies have to be open to the unforeseen and even the accidental. One key business model that has emerged and developed in recent years is Open Innovation, a concept that the state government of Baden-Wuerttemberg is now investing more and more time and energy in.
Open Innovation means turning your back on established, in-house innovation processes and shifting deliberately toward opening up and working with external partners. For small and medium-sized enterprises, this is a major challenge because their internal know-how is central to their competitiveness. To open up to others, they need a specific reason to do so, or the pressure to do something has to be there – for example if the market requires changes in the existing business model. This is where coaching can help in order to introduce targeted innovation management to the company.
On the European and international level, the services provided by the Enterprise Europe Network have proved valuable in this respect. This network has more than 600 partners in over 60 countries, and its role is to support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and research organizations to establish innovation alliances and market entry strategies and access financing mechanisms. The emphasis lies in providing support to individual companies.
The state of Baden-Wuerttemberg also acts as an innovation driver in the Vanguard Initiative, a consortium of over 30 European regions. Its aim is to drive industrial innovation forward across Europe in keeping with the idea of “leading by example.” The key areas it addresses are efficient and sustainable production, 3D printing, nanotechnology, and bio-economy.
Given societal challenges and social innovations, the “quadruple helix” will become more important in the future. Quadruple helix describes the interplay and mutual influence of the economy, science, politics, and civil society. According to this concept, innovation can no longer be seen as a linear process starting in research and ending with market-ready products. Instead, it is a complex social process revolving around dialogue, an exchange which has an impact on all areas of life. An example of this on a European level is the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities, which looks at urban development and has established this helix in all projects. Another example is the CatLabs programme initiated by the regional government of Catalonia. These programmes change the nature of innovation and networks, raising them to a multidimensional level and placing more focus within processes on social considerations. They do this by looking at how different factors depend on interests, experiences, values, and qualifications.
We encourage you to be bold and proactive and become more involved in multidimensional networking! In this latest edition of TRANSFER magazine you can read about the different ways the Steinbeis Network is actively involved in networking.
With kind regards,
Dr. Jonathan Loeffler
Dr. Jonathan Loeffler has been co-director of Steinbeis 2i GmbH since 2016, alongside Dr. Petra Puchner. Between 2000 and 2016 he was director of the Steinbeis- Europa-Zentrum in Karlsruhe. Loeffler has been working for Steinbeis for roughly 20 years. The focus of his work lies in supporting industry with innovation management, with an emphasis on small and medium-sized enterprises and the implementation of European research and innovation initiatives in the field of new materials, nanotechnology, optics, production technology, and the automotive industry.
To contact Dr. Jonathan Loeffler write to Jonathan.Loeffler@stw.de