Monday, May 03, 2010

What does 'open innovation' mean for the Cambridge high tech cluster?

Cambridge has been noted for its ability to 'punch above its weight'. Despite the cluster being relatively small (the population of the city being only around 100,000), it has produced firms that lead global markets in - amongst others - areas such as microprocessors for mobile devices (ARM), industrial inkjet printing (Domino Printing Sciences) and meaning based computing (Autonomy).
Part of the reason why Cambridge firms can achieve global scale and take on much larger rivals is through the effective use of various forms of collaborations, ecosystem building or 'open innovation'. Open innovation describes the ways in which companies can create value through innovating in partnership with other organisations. The topic is attracting high levels of interest from policymakers, consultants, multinational corporations and academics. It is being hailed by some as the 'new way' to improve companies' abilities to innovate, accelerate regional economic recovery, attract investment and link with the science base. But is it really anything new? Is there any evidence that it really works? What does it mean for start-ups, medium-sized firms and multinationals in and around Cambridge? What can be learned from the experience of those Cambridge firms that have implemented open innovation strategies?
Building on the outputs of recently completed research, a new project will shortly be started at the Institute for Manufacturing which will examine the different strategies used by Cambridge firms in implementing open innovation, and contrasting this with approaches used elsewhere. As part of this new research, a talk will be held on the 13th May to review and prompt discussion on the background, current practice, and implications for future of the Cambridge high tech cluster of the emerging (or perhaps very old) phenomenon of 'open innovation'. For more information on this talk and to register, see the IfM's events page.


  1. Ideas like this need to get through to central government policy makers - otherwise they think building shopping centres is the simple answer!

  2. Tim,

    Thanks for the post. Have read Lessons from Studying Large Multinational Companies you did last year; indeed I think we have lived a few of the scenarios.

    Albion and PneumaCare would be happy to provide some material for the next study. We have several examples on how not to do it as well and the success stories.

    Amongst many other aspects, through mapping of the project on both business and technical levels is key; objectives must be understood. The alternative results in too much micromanaging or “wheel spinning” activity.

    Cambridge is an idea place for Open Innovation as we have the visionary, the practical, and the global reach.

    Dr. J Ward Hills
    Chief Technology Officer
    PneumaCare Ltd

  3. Slides used in this presentation and related podcast are now available from