Corporate Innovation Group

We hosted a corporate get-together last week together with Oracle.  In a way this was a follow up to our work together on Open Alchemy but this time not a formal programme.  The big idea was to convene a group of like-minded corporate open innovators and see what we could achieve together rather than separately.   The evening was a resounding success and it appears that there are lots of opportunities for joined-up working.  It is somewhat ironic that the ‘open’ in corporate open innovation does not include corporate peers as a matter of course.  The sorts of benefits that were discussed were to SMEs (give them a market to pitch for) , Corporates (better identification of needs and potential partners) and Government (being more in touch with the needs of industry).  From having run the P&G Open Innovation Challenge NESTA is aware how difficult it is for SMEs with good ideas to find the right door to open in any given corporate and we are also aware of the logistical difficulties of finding the right ideas and people from the corporate perspective.   Maybe some sort of Corporate Innovation Group is one of the answers?  I would be really interested to hear you views on this.


  1. Helping SMEs find the right way into large corporates and for large corporates to have a better view of small innovative companies sounds like a very worthwhile area. And hopefully a system that doesn’t resemble The Dragon’s Den in anyway!

  2. I agree James. One of the principles of this group is ‘clients not cash’ in recognition that not every SME wants to sell equity and that it may be more appropriate to provide a route to market instead. What do you think’s wrong with DD?

  3. It was a great evening full of potential. If our largest organisations can collaborate and support our smaller entrepreneurial businesses together we can differentiate how we commercially apply ideas in the UK market; creating sustainable and mutual opportunity. “Customers not Cash” – It’s the missing link to creating a truly dynamic business environment.

  4. Interesting question David. I know this issue from both sides of the fence, corporate and SME. Connecting is a big issue but so is aligning ie getting both parties on the same page re goals, timeframe, decision-making, IP, budget etc as it is here that a lot of collaboration seems to fail. Corporate and SME expectations and cultures can be very different and I have experienced a lot of frustration on both sides as a result of not fully recognising corporation’s and SME’s are different business “beasts” often not used to sharing the same habitat or with different goals. These issues need to be brought into the open & actively addressed if we are to achieve more hybrid innovation via cross-breeding of the corporate and SME business spheres.

  5. Brendan, we’ve been doing some thinking on cultural differences and I believe you’re spot on. There’s a lot of learning and adpaptation to be done on both sides if a trusting and valuable relationship is to flourish. The Corporate Union though may well address a problem that is further upstream – how to meet the right potential partners in the first place.

  6. I attended this event and came away with several ideas buzzing in my head – see the blog post at for more info. I am particularly interested in the mutual support that this kind of Union could offer people working in these roles in different non-competing companies. For example, i am embarking on organising an Arup Hackday as part of our innovation programme this year and am very aware that others have already been down this path. In the spirit of Kaizen I would love to hear about others experiences and will happily share mine in 4 months time!

  7. Re Dragons Den, it’s your ‘clients-not-cash’ exactly.
    The whole dynamic of the great and the good sitting in front of their wads of cash, whilst a few good souls try and make their ideas stand up maybe good television, but it’s a terrible way to do form a business relationship.
    Much better to identify some common ground and understand what either side can bring to the table, in a respectful, equal environment.

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