The benefits of open innovation are becoming better understood. They enable businesses to draw on expertise from outside of their operations to develop new products, services, and ideas. But does open innovation offer the best model for the 21st century? Will it really help us answer the wicked problems we face, that demand a range of perspectives to find potential solutions? In this post, we explore what has been proposed as the next stage of open innovation: the quadruple helix model, or OI 2.0.
What is the quadruple helix model?
OI 2.0 provides a new approach for tackling the complex challenges we face in our societies. It breaks down the traditional silos between government, industry, academia, and civil participants, bringing these multidisciplinary viewpoints together in an environment that promotes team working, collaboration and the sharing of ideas. By working together, this quadruple helix approach can create new shared value that benefits all participants in what becomes an innovation ecosystem. Technology plays a key role in creating networks and connectivity. Value is characterised by a long-term view, focusing on improved social conditions as well as company performance. And success is measured for the ecosystem as a whole, rather than individual units.
How is it different from OI 1.0?
In essence, OI 2.0 takes the principles of open innovation as we know it and expands them to involve a much broader group of stakeholders. Rather than companies working with other companies, or with universities, the emphasis is on engaging the end-user in the innovation process, so that the value of new concepts is on how well – and how quickly – they can be put into practice. Policy-makers also play an essential role, creating the opportunity to drive structural change. Much of this is beyond the scope of what OI 1.0 could achieve. Where open innovation is bilateral, OI2.0 relies on an ecosystem. And where 1.0 might be characterised by pilots and validating ideas, the new approach focuses on experimentation. It has been described as ‘fast to fail, fast to scale’.
Because OI 2.0 leans towards structural change, with users co-creating solutions to meet their needs, design patterns become much more important for its success. This means that the outcome focuses on finding general solutions to common problems, rather than specific solutions or innovations that are one-off in nature. Using the solutions to the benefit of society is crucial.
Is it being used?
Open Innovation 2.0 sounds great in theory, but implementation can be a much more difficult prospect. Can this quadruple helix work in practice? The European Commission certainly thinks so, identifying OI 2.0 as an important part of the Digital Single Market policy. The Open Innovation Strategy and Policy Group, or OISPG, is responsible for organising events to spread the word about OI 2.0, including annual conferences. And research has identified the prevalence of the quadruple helix model in the next round of research funding calls, through the Horizon 2020 programme. The approach is an important feature of research tackling questions on everything from space to climate action, and from secure societies to health and wellbeing.
Living Labs also embody the quadruple helix approach. Another EU initiative, the European Network of Living Labs has been established with two principles in mind: to involve multiple users in the creation process; and to use the real-world to test ideas. The labs are described as acting as ‘brokers’ between citizens and the other elements of the quadruple helix – academic, private companies, and local government – so that each perspective can be heard. Importantly, Living Labs now represents a network across Europe and the wider world, creating design templates that can be tailored to different situations.
However, perhaps the most useful testbed for OI 2.0 is in cities, where there is the infrastructure and capacity to bring different stakeholders together, and where solutions to problems are likely to be more broadly applicable. Dublin, for example, has engaged with open innovation through the OISPG by playing an active role in the annual conference. In the early 2010s, a programme called CityWatch was launched, bringing together the multiple perspectives of Trinity College Dublin, Intel Labs Europe, Dublin City Council and local people. The project focused on gathering and sharing information about the city in order to solve particular challenges, and data was provided by local government, sensors placed around the city, and by local people, who uploaded their ideas through apps and social networks. In the last few years, this has developed into Smart Dublin, an initiative led by the four Dublin’s four city councils to solve problems and improve city life. The councils work with a range of stakeholders across the quadruple helix, including SMEs and corporates, colleges and universities, and end users. The project has led to the development of resources that Dublin residents and workers can use, including the Dublin Dashboard, which provides a range of data about life in the city. Projects have focused on mobility, flood control and illegal dumping.
Another example is the Six City Strategy, or 6Aika, in Finland. The project brings the six largest Finnish cities together – representing nearly a third of the country’s population – to boost city co-operation and, crucially, create citizen-led solutions. It is characterised by open data, an open innovation platform, and open participation, and develops and test ideas along a range of themes that will benefit all six cities, and the wider nation. To date, projects have looked at urban mobility and transportation, healthcare, and government services.
An approach for the future?
Open innovation has created opportunities for companies to look beyond their traditional R&D boundaries to develop new products and services, expanding their reach and increasing their bottom line. Open innovation 2.0 takes us a step further. By enabling the major entities in our societies – government, industry, academia, and citizens – to work together means that real challenges can be solved in ways that will work on the ground. And this promises to benefit us all. Open innovation will continue to evolve. But, for the time being at least, OI 2.0 is worth the investment.