Beiersdorf has worked collaboratively with external partners (institutions, universities, SMEs, corporations) for decades. Digital development has led to completely new matchmaking models and scouting approaches in the past 15 years and opened great opportunities for innovative potential – at the same time presenting new challenges.
In several different projects (tech calls), Beiersdorf’s aim was to evaluate the potential of the Innoget technology transfer platform to i) Beiersdorf’s proprietary Open Innovation platform, the Trusted Network “Pearlfinder” (http://pearlfinder.beiersdorf.com/) and ii) to other scouting / open innovation / technology transfer means.
In September 2016, Beiersdorf launched a branded Open Innovation profile on the Innoget platform to foster synergies between Beiersdorf’s proprietary platform “Pearlfinder” and the activities via Innoget (https://beiersdorfopeninnovation.innoget.com/).
Main stages of the process are:
- Choice and diligent phrasing of technology need topic
- Posting of technology call on Innoget platform
- Evaluation of proposals, accepting and rejecting procedure
- First contact with providers of accepted proposals
- Initial discussions to assess and verify the quality of the presented solution and mutual interest
- Setup of secrecy agreements for more detailed discussions of the technology and a potential collaboration
- Setup of project plan and milestones, possibly joint development agreement
- Testing / evaluation of technology / material in several stages from proof of concept to tests in final application
- Introduction of technology / material in market product
For the 12 technology calls Beiersdorf ran on the Innoget platform, 97 solution proposals were received, of which 21 were accepted. Nine of the 21 reached the stage where a secrecy agreement was signed. Six of the nine reached the testing stage. Compared to other initiatives, the activities on Innoget have been quite successful up to this point.
The results did differ remarkably between the individual tech calls, highlighting the importance of topic choice and phrasing for a given community.
One extremely successful example is a so-called “holy-grail” topic (i.e. a technological challenge pursued by Beiersdorf and the entire industry for years without finding a satisfying solution yet). This topic was re-phrased in an abstracted way that could be understood by addressees outside the cosmetics industry and posted on the Innoget platform. Beyond all expectations, ten proposals were received, of which five represented novel as well as suitable approaches. Two collaborations projects were successfully initiated based on the proposals received.
Besides addressing the solver community in a way that they can understand with a topic that they can contribute to, there is one other main bottleneck:
Technology maturity. Especially working with research institutes, the solutions mostly are not ready-to-use and require extensive further development and upscaling / commercialization. As neither the institute nor Beiersdorf as a manufacturer of finished goods are capable of this necessary step, it will require bringing in a third party. In principle, these constructs are possible and have been done by Beiersdorf before. However, needing a third party to fill the gap usually considerably adds to the complexity and costs, making it more difficult to achieve a win-win for all parties and diminishing chances for success.
Beiersdorf’s objective is to identify technologies from other (adjacent) industries or academia for transfer into our applications. We are open to different collaboration models from joint development to supply agreements and any stage in between.
The main goals for reaching out to external partners and using external expertise and resources are i) speeding up development projects and ii) enabling solutions that Beiersdorf would not be able to create on its own, thus greatly increasing the innovative potential.
Main success factors from our experience are the following:
To identify technologies and collaboration partners such as choice of suitable topics for the addressed community or appropriate (possibly abstracted) phrasing of the technology need in order for it to be understood by the addressed community.
For a successful collaboration:
- Effective communication regarding expectations, limits and interests of each party as well as project requirements and project progress
- Suitable legal framework covering the collaboration
- Openness, understanding and respect for the other party’s interests (especially when the two organization types differ markedly, such as a large enterprise and a university institute) to ensure a win-win outcome
- Make sure you are aware of the success factors and diligently work on them.
- Underestimate the crucial success factors and don’t have unrealistic expectations.