Thursday, June 2, 2011

Meet the Entrepreneur - Open Innovation*

A fusion of great minds, great intentions and great atmosphere took place during ‘Meet the Entrepreneur’- a professional networking event run by the Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, hosted by Ernst & Young at their Sydney office last Thursday evening.

Guests welcomed complementary catering and time for hosted networking before each of the three panelists gave brief presentations of their organizations prior to a moderated panel discussion.

Loosely defined, open innovation is the free exchange of resources, knowledge and skills across industries, national and international borders. As the evening progressed, the panellists explained how this concept can be interpreted and put into practice in very different ways.

Valerie Khoo, noted journalist, small business commentator, and founder and managing director of the Sydney Writers’ Centre, moderated the panel discussion.

Valerie Khoo

Paul Levins, president of Intellectual Ventures, spoke about his organization's goal to “make invention a profitable activity that attracts much more private investment so that the number of inventions soars.”

By building and buying inventions, and partnering with inventors, Intellectual Ventures is able to provide inventors with a share of the profits made from the licensing of their inventions. This also enables the organization to “match” solutions with problems brought to their attention, and to increase the availability of access to markets for inventors, and the access to inventors by the markets.
Levins pointed out that “the internet has turned a lot of people who were consumers into producers. A lot of people are liberated from being just a consumer.”

Darren Williams, founding CTO and a Director of Freelancer.com, agreed with this idea, and described his Freelancer.com as “e-Bay for services.” Williams elaborated, “We are able to deliver these jobs to emerging economies where they desperately need the jobs, and at the same time we also deliver advantages to the West where they see these jobs as very low-priced work that they can get done by true experts...this isn't seen as exploitation by people in the developing world; we get hundreds of letters saying, ‘You've changed my life.’”

While Williams acknowledged that Freelancer.com was part of a series of structural shifts in a number of markets, he also pointed out that this also created opportunities for people in developed countries who are contracting work, in that they have access to personal relationships and local market knowledge in ways contractors in developing countries did not. This, he asserted, increased the contractor's capability to expand their reach and opportunities.

L to R: Darren Williams (Freelancer.com), Paul Levins (Intellectual Ventures), and Darren Comber (Innovation Xchange)
Darren Coomber, CEO of Innovation Xchange Australia, defined open innovation as “the understanding that you can’t do everything inside your own company, and that you use whatever resources that you need from outside your company to help you achieve value.”

To this end, Innovation Xchange created a unique platform and process that allows “IXC intermediaries...[to] work with clients to understand intentions, technology, gaps and needs...[and to] work together to identify and facilitate collaborations quickly with no risk of IP disclosure.”

Williams summed up that Innovation Xchange's goal was to “help businesses find solutions to their issues and problems by bringing them together with the right innovators within their network.”

The concept of open innovation is rapidly gaining recognition, undoubtedly because the value to be gained (on a number of levels) from active network utilisation and “outside the box” thinking, is clearly worth pursuing.

* (Blogpost courtesy Irina Belsky, online journalism major in UNSW's Master of Journalism and Communication program, 2011. Read more of Ms Belsky's work at http://digitalnavigation.wordpress.com/)

* (All photos courtesy of Matt Barnett, AGSM MBA 2013. See more of Mr Barnett's work at www.lessconstrained.com)

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