Finding Common Ground in Open Innovation

A few days ago, at the first formal meeting of the California Business Incubation Alliance (CBIA), about 35 representatives of open innovation participated in a far-ranging dialogue aimed at providing a sense of common challenges. Attendees ranged from companies though nonprofit and government incubators, and both physical and virtual accelerators and investors were represented as well.

While the group’s composition included those typically defined as traditional tech, there were also many others engaged in open innovation for non-traditional tech players. Participants attended from Mediacamp, Code for America, Nike, Coca Cola, USAID and Vodafone, among many others. There was a strong flavor of civic tech in the air, represented by Tumml, Prospect Silicon Valley, and Code for America.

The agenda covered a series of issues common to most every stakeholder in innovation ecosystems.

What might a fly on the wall have taken from that dialogue? First, a fly probably would have appreciated how many organizations see themselves in a similar place, needing to innovate present business models and future products, facing myriad challenges in digesting everything out there.

Next, researchers and innovators likely would have appreciated how they are viewed as part of a solution set for sourcing by investors, technology scouts and developers all over the world.

One thing was clear: from NASA to the SBA to nonprofits in every field from energy to advanced materials, just about every player you can imagine is (re)evaluating its approach to external innovation - and partnerships - right now.

The CBIA is a special interest group within the California Technology Council, convened to explore best practices across industries in incubation and acceleration.