How to successfully discover innovation opportunities and partners

Innovation Hubs are on everyone’s lips today. Companies strive for new innovation playing fields, cooperation and out-of-the-box thinking. With a strong need for agility, and to keep a finger on the pulse of time. How can innovation hubs discover attractive innovation opportunities? What can they do to support business success? Here are some fresh answers from our experience with supporting corporate innovation hubs.


EB Insight: What does „innovation hub“ mean to you?

Alexander: A hub is always a central point within a broader space. An innovation hub can be seen as a further innovation pillar in which varied ideas, players and technologies come together – to be combined in synergy. The most popular innovation hub we know is a geographical one: The Silicon Valley. Here, startups, established corporations and academics live and work collaboratively in the tightest of space. Hubs from companies are platforms by which new technologies and innovation opportunities and collaboration partners are captured, evaluated and utilized.


EB Insight: What types of innovation hubs are out there?

Alexander: We see innovation hubs within companies, public institutions, associations and sciences. Even the European Union is engaged and networks via innovation hubs. Concerning corporate innovation hubs, there are many different types: from single innovation hub events for creative networking through to long-time strategic corporate innovation hub initiatives with worldwide locations. Some German examples: Deutsche Bank, Lufthansa Innovation Hub, InsureTechHub. It is all about ambition, priority and willingness to invest. Even in Africa there are more than 100 innovation hubs. Some innovation hubs have their own physical co-innovation spaces inside or outside the organisation, some use flexible formats with events and others work as a virtual hub network.


EB Insight: Why do more and more companies and associations build innovation hubs or get involved in existing ones?

Alexander: We live in an age full of innovations and ideas – with high-speed hyper-competition. Thus, new valuable innovation playing fields cannot be created with old school techniques like planning in minute detail, wargaming, portfolio-strategies, stage-gate-processes or trend analysis. Without a continuous inflow of external innovation and technology impulses including cross-industry and cross-market perspectives + without an open, creative network, companies won’t have a successful future today. Who would like to become the next Kodak or Nokia?

In the dynamics of our digital age, speed and agility are essential. Innovations will be created much easier and faster when collaborate with strong partners. 


EB Insight: Why is the early identification of innovation and technology developments, startups and tech partners important?

Alexander: An innovation hub needs continuous input, fuel. For collaboration and innovation. That requires a continuous inflow of fresh impulses. The hub needs to keep its finger on the pulse of time. What innovation and technology developments emerge in adjacent categories and markets? Which startups and tech companies are potential creative and technology network partners? Out-of-the-box fuel and inflow of new impulses related to own hot-topics are needed. Google + startup databases are not enough today. Some corporations still assume that startups and tech partners will approach to them automatically. Or it might be enough that employees attend to startup conferences and networking events. That is a great starting point. But to create successful partnerships and innovations much more is needed.


EB Insight: How can innovation and technology impulses be incorporated in innovation hubs?

Alexander: A powerful Scouting that focuses individual and continuously changing topics as well as cross-market and cross-industry impulses is needed. Databases and network events are static. Complexity of information and innovation speed is high. Thus, an innovation hub should enable to see the forest for the trees. To discover new plants and exciting animals. In doing so, creative exchange is needed. To filter most important developments for your business. It is all about involving employees and innovation partners with their ideas and topics of interest. Also into the scouting. It is essential to exchange experiences and network from day 1.

Scouting Innovation und Technologie, Früherkennung neuer Entwicklungen

Innovation and Technology Scouting provides valuable impulses and a cross-market perspective – for external inflow and successful new ideas for the innovation hub.


EB Insight: From your experience: how can innovation and technology impulses and partners be identified for a successful corporate innovation hub?

Alexander: That requires the creative collaboration between different people of the company + innovation partners + new technologies. Our innovation and technology experts from EARLY BRANDS deploy herefore our real-time scouting technologies. Day by day, we screen millions of hundreds of data sources in real-time, worldwide for the innovation hubs of our clients. Precisely. Individually. Straight to the point. The scouting is customized over time. In close collaboration and dialogues with our clients’ teams from the hubs. In this way, individual key topics can be combined with cross-market hot-topics such as Blockchain, KI, VR, AR. So that the innovation hub is continuously being fed with valuable out-of-the-box fuel.


EB Insight: How can innovation and technology collaboration partners be attracted and embedded by the hub?

Alexander: An innovation hub is a separate ecosystem. It evolves naturally. Step by step due to innovation and networking activities. To keep a filter in mind but at the same time let creativity and networking flow, is very helpful for that. For example: a wide partner screening with virtual speed dating events via Skype to co-creation workshops at any location through to partnerships that create success from Design Sprint to pilot implementation. In doing so: put on the glasses of your customer. Involve market and customer perspectives prematurely and continuously. Integrate executives and chairmen. Whether the innovation hub is a program idea or a long-term initiative – this is how engagement, motivation and identification arise.


EB Insight: What is your experience a hub can do to succeed in collaboration?

Alexander: EARLY BRANDS supports innovation hubs especially with tailored innovation and technology scouting and the creation of a strong partner ecosystem – for the hub in general and for particular innovation activities. From many projects we know: you are successful, when collaborating together in interdisciplinary teams. When startups and tech partners are at eye level. That means: not David & Goliath but more Bonny & Clyde. And Spray & Pray. Juggle with many opportunities. Develop them agilely together with users and customers – do not only focus on big shots. Innovation success cannot be predicted but innovation hubs make a great contribution to that. Not as the one and only but as a very important pillar beside internal innovation activities, accelerators, incubators, venture capitals and much more.


Catch the Future…!