Open Innovation guru Chesbrough visits NESTA

Henry, adjunct professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California and Executive
Director of the Center for Open Innovation was recently described by The Economist as
“the godfather of open innovation”.  So as leader of the open innovation programmes at NESTA his visit was A Big Deal for me. 

I wasn’t disappointed – from the dinner to the end of the corporate workshop some 24 hours later Henry was tireless and engaging for very different audiences from the policy and business worlds.  Click here for a short taste of him in action.

Henry Chesbrough opened the corporate lab with a presentation on
the theory of open innovation, and lead the discussion on the implications for practice.  You could tell this subject is hot by looking at the quality and seniority of the audience from organisations as diverse as ARUP, AstraZeneca, BBC, BT, GSK, IDEO, RBS, Oracle Kodak, Capgemini, McLaren F1, Microsoft,
Oracle, Unilever, P&G and Cancer Research UK.  Henry explained why open innovation was on the rise citing factors such as the explosion in venture capital, private funding of universities and increasing workforce mobility amongst others.  He then outlined four themes of the ‘logic of open innovation’: 

  • Good ideas are widely distributed and no-one has a monopoly;
  • Not all the smart people work for us; 
  • Companies must employ poker players as well as chess players;
  • You must manage IP in order to manage research.   

From the discussion afterwards it became clear that many of the attendees were already experimenting with open innovation in various ways.  Notes were compared and lessons swapped.  As examples of NESTA’s work in this area we also had short presentations from Mike Addison at P&G, Mike Phillips at McLaren and David Rajan of Oracle.  I hope Henry comes back to NESTA soon and if he does I would like to move the agenda on to the future of corporate open innovation, invite more interested novices and examine how to extend COI to harder sectors like financial services, the creative industries and smaller companies.  Let me know if that appeals!   


  1. It was an interesting session and thanks for the summary. It is intruiging to observe how quickly the open innovation paradigm has been adopted, modified and implemented by the attendees in the room.
    However Open Innovation still presents major challenges to traditionally risk averse organisations and we are just at the start of understanding what that means for a networked innovation approach.
    One of my favorite discussion points was around the need for speed in developing and implementing collaborative innovations, else traditional organisational barriers kick in and kill of that all important momentum required to bring ideas to market.
    As you say, I hope this is the start of a series of sessions that look at the new emerging open business models that Henry has captured so well in his work.

  2. Just following up on a couple of links to this blog; Firstly I notice- – that Michael LoBue from the Institute of Innovation, Information and Productivity comments that ‘tolerance’ contributes to the succes of Silicon Valley. I agree and it is a factor in successful open innovation too, as is trust. Last week at NESTA we had a place day at which Annalee Saxenian UC Berkely – spoke about Silicon Valley and there was some discussion about the place being a child of the ’60s with all the tolerance/laissez faire attitudes that implies. Secondly E Milbergs adds a useful diagram of the open innovation process

  3. I’m not sure what the hold-up is… maybe they have re-thought their stance on how this is going to actually make the company any money. Or perhaps their lawyers pointed out the liability of providing agents a platform to stick their feet in their mouth. Whatever it is, it’s hardly something I’d claim as being “Well done”.

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