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INCONNECT: INNOVATION REQUIRES COLLABORATION!

Steinbeis cooperation index analyzes the potential offered by partnerships

The fountain of innovation flows from exchange with others. Important foundations of this are networking and collaboration. That’s because value creation in and through networks is becoming increasingly important. Collaboration – and the transfer processes it leads to between different stakeholders – is also a key prerequisite of value creation. There are few areas of business to which these prerequisites do not apply, yet fulfilling them is no guarantee of success. To position themselves and prepare for collaboration, it is therefore essential for companies and economic regions as a whole to stand back and assess in detail their own ability to enter into partnerships and engage in innovation. In addition, it helps to draw systematic comparisons between the collaborative strengths of different regions or companies and make assessments with the aim of identifying success factors and recommending actions based on them. Steinbeis 2i and STASA (Steinbeis Angewandte Systemanalyse GmbH) have now developed an important analytical tool that can help with such assessments: the InConnect Partnership Index.

To turn networks into successful partnerships – collaboration with the ability to boost innovative capabilities – you have to answer three key questions: how, with whom, and when? Of course it’s important to develop strategies, but at the same time organizations need to be open to the unforeseen and surprises. One key term that has emerged in this context in recent years is “open innovation,” which means turning your back on established, in-house innovation processes and shifting deliberately toward opening up to and working with external partners. But it’s the exact nature of each partnership that dictates whether it will have a positive impact on innovations. For example, it’s important that partnerships work on both a regional and inter-regional level (Broekel et al, 2010). In addition, the more stakeholders involved in R&D partnerships, the more likely collaboration is to result in new products (Becker & Dietz, 2004).

HOW DOES INCONNECT WORK?

The InConnect Partnership Index developed by Steinbeis 2i and STASA is the first of its kind to focus specifically on the collaboration factors that dictate innovation. The project team based its work on scientific insights into partnerships and innovation, using these to define relevant indicators. It then used its own specially developed calculation methods to pull these indicators together into meaningful indicators to be used for the InConnect index.

InConnect makes it possible to work out different aspects of collaboration on different levels, the factors that help to promote innovation. It then predicts different stakeholders’ prospects of developing added value through various collaborative activities. Based on this, it becomes possible to highlight the potential that companies, scientific bodies, and economic regions have to improve their partnerships, and this has a positive impact on the development of innovations. The tool also makes it possible to carry out benchmark evaluations.

InConnect spans four categories, allowing users to assess collaboration and innovation factors in detail. These four categories not only provide a framework, but also reflect specific types of partnerships. Three types of partnerships are considered: partnerships between companies and science (or academia), intercompany partnerships, and partnerships between different scientific institutions. For each individual category, several subordinate indicators are calculated and displayed.

Partnership networks within research projects form an important part of the InConnect Index. These make it possible to highlight developments with the potential to emerge from collaborative research in the future. Collaboration on research projects carried out by different types of institutions helps to make partnership networks more visible, and this can foster new innovations.

Linking regional indicators to the primary data of the individual stakeholders within partnership networks makes it possible to conduct specific assessments of collaboration factors on a regional level. Using special software to display indicators on clear, interactive charts provides detailed insights into the collaboration factors that affect various stakeholders. This also makes it possible to conduct further evaluations and look at outcomes in geographical terms as well as other, more abstract terms.

The strengths of the index lie in its ability to assess partnerships and innovations systematically and in detail. It does this by drawing on different sources and perspectives. It also allows comparisons to be made between countries. To help users further, the index presents them with interactive graphs.

The overall indicators used by InConnect

 

HOW CAN YOU BENEFIT FROM INCONNECT?

Using the partnership index can boost innovation by pinpointing and promoting relevant partnerships, which then lead to tangible examples of innovation. It also makes it easier for different stakeholders to weigh up the benefit and cost of partnerships. A further advantage lies in the emphasis the index lays on future factors. This is because partnerships, especially in research, always revolve around the possibilities of the future. Months or sometimes years later, they fuel innovations. Providing visual representations of the index also makes it possible to work on a variety of factors relating to collaboration and innovation, and these allow intuitive and clear conclusions to be drawn from the information.

InConnect is thus of interest to any organization aiming to derive more value from partnerships. Benchmark evaluations in the private and scientific sectors can be combined with the index and used to conduct a detailed comparison of your own organization with other institutions and companies. The index also makes it easier to find interested partners already active in a collaboration arrangement, not only improving how innovations are developed but also accelerating processes and helping with the development of new products and areas of activity. Organizations in the public sector will be particularly interested in the regional comparisons offered by the InConnect Index. Its unique ability to link socio-economic indicators to partnership networks allows the index to support strategic planning and the promotion of partnerships and innovation.

The InConnect Index is an interactive tool providing visual representations and evaluations

INTRODUCING INCONNECT AT THE MAX SYRBE SYMPOSIUM

The index was first unveiled at the Max Syrbe Symposium organized by the Steinbeis Foundation on June 25. The tool was presented by Dr. Jonathan Loeffler (S2i) and Dr. Philipp Liedl (STASA) in front of 80 guests at the Literaturhaus in Stuttgart. A keynote speech made by Prof. Dr. Johannes Glückler (University of Heidelberg) provided a memorable example of the value offered by partnership networks. To build a bridge between theory and practice, Dr. Marlene Gottwald (Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute) moderated an open discussion to allow some of the first pilot customers to describe their experiences with the index, the possibilities it opened up to them, and the challenges of successful partnerships.


INTERESTED IN HEARING MORE ABOUT INCONNECT? 

To download a detailed brochure (in German) on the partnership index, go to www.steinbeis.de/inconnect [1]. The authors would also be happy to answer your questions.