Keeping innovation open

IESE holds 8th Open Innovation Conference online

The 8th Open Innovation Conference was organized by IESE together with Gellify and Acciona.

April 29, 2020

As the world moves toward economic recession, getting innovation right – staying ahead of competitors while avoiding unproductive ideas — seems more important than ever. But how to do it?

IESE teamed up with Gellify, a platform for B2B innovation, and Spanish infrastructure and renewable energy company Acciona, to hold its 8th Open Innovation Conference online this week.

In addition to professor Julia Prats and Josemaria Siota of IESE, conference speakers were: Telmo Pérez, Chief Innovation Officer at Acciona; Philip Wockatz, Volvo’s Director of Open Innovation; Itxaso de Palacio, Director of Investment at venture capital fund Notion; Giancarlo Savini, Manager of Shell Ventures; Paula Blázquez, Head of Investments at Banc Sabadell unit InnoCells; and Diego Fernández, CEO, Iberia, of Gellify.

As Prats noted, “corporate venturing 2.0” is emerging, as established companies refine the ways they engage with startups. “It’s changing from exactly how things were before,” she said.

While there’s no single recipe for getting it right, here are some of the conclusions:

  • There may be strength in numbers. For small or medium-sized firms, forming “corporate squads” together with other companies may be useful in order to approach startups or innovation projects together. “I think this collaboration model is amazing,” says Gellify’s Fernández.
  • Find the right way to work with funds. Working with venture capital funds can help companies increase their access to different regions and startups, while also providing a filter for deals and likely a first round of funding. But it also adds another layer to the process, and can be expensive.
  • Look at fewer projects, well filtered. There are lots of projects out there – but most are probably of little interest to your business. Focus on a select number of events or formats to scout deals. Notion’s de Palacio prefers formats in which she can make a quick pre-selection of only the pitches of companies she’s truly potentially interested in.
  • Think holistically. Now more than ever, when many businesses will struggle after COVID-19, it’s important to ensure that individual innovations fit into the whole of your company, thinking holistically on many different levels.

For example, while Banc Sabadell has different corporate venturing tools, Blázquez says coordination is key. “You have to make sure you have a holistic approach in terms of innovation.”

“We like to look for things that we are missing,” says Acciona’s Perez. Since Acciona has its roots in traditional industries, that means seeking out more disruptive industries or novel digital capabilities.

  • Focus on integration. A startup may be doing great things, but if you don’t integrate it into your business model in the right way, it won’t contribute the way you had hoped. For Volvo’s Wockatz, that means starting with clear procedures – on legal, IT, procurement, etc. – that everyone follows. “It’s not based on one superhero in the organization. It’s based on a structure,” Wockatz says. Volvo also goes through a three-step process – the third step being the actual agreement — with startups to ensure that the fit is right.