Seven common open innovation models

#1) Challenges

Companies can set innovation challenges to gather ideas and find solutions. These can either be public events where anyone is able to contribute, or they can be private with specifically selected partners.

Innovation challenges can be defined to solve a specific problem that is already well-identified, such as Unilever’s innovation portal seeking solutions to problems with the storage, packaging, and transportation of food products.

On the other hand, these challenges can also be broadly defined to encourage participants to submit a wider range of ideas, as with AT&T’s Accelerator Challenge seeking new ways to boost the engineering capabilities of today’s students.

Innovation challenges are an excellent way to gather new ideas and boost brand visibility.

#2) Startup-corporate partnerships

Partnerships between startups and corporate businesses are another way to work together to find a solution to an identified problem. These partnerships are a great way to draw on the strengths of each company and offer mutual benefits.

For the startup, these partnerships offer an opportunity to refine a company’s value proposition, work closely with future clients, and be introduced to a wider range of corporates. For growing startups, this is huge.

Corporate businesses also get access to a competent and well-trained team working on a solution without impacting their internal resources and have a solution tailored to their needs.

These mutual benefits are one reason why startup-corporate partnerships like BMW’s Startup Garage are becoming more popular.

#3) Startup incubator / accelerator

A startup incubator or accelerator is similar to a partnership, but also involves the corporate business investing equity in the startup.

Often, the corporate will have an internal team working on the project, with the startup there to help them out with specific knowledge and expertise.

#4) Startup acquisition

When an established business identifies a viable opportunity but doesn’t have the resources, time, or proven capability to take up this opportunity, it may look for startups to acquire. This boosts the business’s innovative capacity without needing to build it from the ground up.

While there can be a lot of mutual advantage in startup acquisitions, these can also result in a loss of competitive advantage. That’s because with a big enough offer, any major established business can buy a promising startup.

#5) Hackathons

Hackathons are similar to innovation challenges, but also go far deeper into the project details – often as far as the minimum viable product phase.

The goal with hackathons is to work as fast as possible, channeling creative expertise and knowledge to create momentum in a very short period of time.

As hackathons are short, communal exercises, they tend to make communication a lot easier. They can also be great ways to boost brand visibility or vet potential hires, as in the case of Facebook’s now famous hackathons.

#6) Intrapreneurship

Intrapreneurship is a great way to find innovative talent within an established business. Unfortunately, as a concept, it isn’t all that well understood by the majority of companies.

Intrapreneurship seeks to identify those employees with a startup mindset and provide them with the support, funding, and mentorship they need to solve tough problems.

This idea recognizes that businesses don’t always have to look outside of the business to innovate. Sometimes, the resources are already ready and waiting.

#7) Co-Creation labs

Co-creation labs can be either internal to a business or convened externally alongside employees, customers, and other partners.

Co-creation labs are places dedicated to innovation, with the resources, mentoring, and knowledge people need to explore challenging questions.

A great example here is Fuji-Xerox’s Customer Co-Creation Laboratory in Yokohama, Japan. Here, Fuji-Xerox employees work alongside customers, experts, and fans to explore new possibilities to apply the company’s technology and resources.