Regional Business Leaders Look to Outside Companies for Ideas

Dec 8, 2011

Open Innovation is an emerging concept that promotes collaboration between companies to research and develop ideas. This notion goes against years of companies fighting to keep ideas and intellectual property within their own walls — and the belief that they, alone, hold the best and brightest minds.

"Companies have to change that mindset and say, 'Yes, there are people outside our company that may have ideas that are valuable to us, that we may want to collaborate with.' I think another challenge is overcoming intellectual property protections," said Grant Wirth, President of Pittsburgh-based Kopp Glass.

His company relies on open innovation to explore all possibilities of growth. Wirth added that relying solely on internal ideas limits that growth.

The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance held a topic briefing on open innovation for county economic development leaders and representatives from small and medium-sized technology and manufacturing businesses. Many businesses have staff dedicated to research and development, but even the largest companies often can't devote a huge chunk of staff to that effort.

"There's hundreds of thousands of people doing research in other places, in universities and industrial laboratories, national laboratories, and the ability to access those ideas to come into the corporation is fantastic," said Art Boni, executive director of the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University.

Speakers highlighted successful companies that utilize open innovation concepts like Google, IBM, Intel, and Apple. Still, as an emerging concept, Kopp Glass's Grant Wirth said that open innovation is difficult to execute and thus far has shown mixed results.