Today’s human societies are based on knowledge economies, where knowledge is commonplace and where quick and innovative solutions to problems are in high demand. We explore why innovation ecosystems that nurture diverse skill sets, collaborative environments, and diverse perspectives earn a reputation as centers of innovative solution acceleration.
Knowledge economies are systems that capitalize on scientific discoveries and applied research. As civilization advances, we come closer to building and thriving such economies. Today, knowledge is harnessed in product innovation to solve societal problems and create opportunities for sustainable growth.
The 21st century change towards open innovation
In the scientific world, knowledge sharing and collective problem solving can lead to the rapid development of optimal solutions. However, almost counterintuitively, the academic ideal of “publish or perish” has led to strict intellectual property protection and a natural resistance to sharing one’s best ideas with others.
Until very recently, innovating only within the confines of one’s own organization was considered the norm. However, the push of economic globalization and technological change, along with the realization that relying only on limited internal resources and prospects can impede or even stifle innovation, has changed attitudes.
“Many more institutions are testing open innovation today than a few decades ago. Open innovation relies on active collaboration with other organizations to work on solutions to pressing societal challenges,” said Tom Straeter, Senior Ecosystem Manager at Kadans Science Partner, a company specializing in building open innovation hubs.
And from this growing openness have emerged innovation ecosystems. Innovation ecosystems comprise an interconnected network of organizations and entities that develop capabilities and use a shared set of services, knowledge and skills to innovate.
Like its ecological counterpart, proximity stimulates interactions within an innovation ecosystem. From there, fruitful collaborations can arise between different sectors, encouraging the sharing of perspectives, which leads to accelerated innovation.
In the life sciences sector, science parks built on the concept of an innovation ecosystem have grown in popularity. Straeter explained that this can be attributed to the nurturing environment they provide for professionals, such as scientists and entrepreneurs, while creating job opportunities.
Critical success factors that drive innovation
“Have a successful innovation ecosystem, it is important to have a good representation and a good interaction of three types of organizations in a science park, commonly called the triple helix“, Straeter has developed.
“This includes businesses, which act as commercial and operational hubs; knowledge and research institutions such as universities, which are the source of new knowledge and technologies; and network organizations or government agencies overseeing stable connections in the collaborations that arise.
Crucial elements in building an innovation ecosystem also include access to new talent and knowledge, funds (via private or public funders), an international network, corporate facilities and leisure, and the provision of well-designed and flexible accommodation.
Another critical success factor, Straeter explained, is tailoring the ecosystem management approach to the demands of the innovation ecosystem itself. “As ecosystem managers supporting 24 science parks and over 40 properties across Europe over the past two decades, we have learned that being aware of our tenants’ needs is essential. In addition to asking us for help in setting up their offices, laboratories or facilities in multi-tenant buildings, our tenants want a direct channel to public and private investors.
“They also want access to a range of services, including incubation programs, legal and marketing support, property and intellectual property management, and recruitment. With our ecosystem services, we have taken a proactive approach to meeting these needs. »
The end goal is to build an ecosystem that fosters planned and unplanned meetings, driving collaboration and innovation. Therefore, networking opportunities are essential.
Sharing how this critical factor is ensured in the innovation science parks that Kadans helps run, Straeter said, “We have ecosystem tools in place to encourage in-person networking, such as informal get-togethers, professional events, expert sessions and symposiums.”
“We also encourage virtual connections through our online platform, webinars, live chat tables and podcast series that we host. These tools ensure that each of our tenants can take full advantage of any service provided at our innovation science parks. »
Success Stories: How Open Innovation Strengthens Collaborations
The success stories of Kadans-supported science parks illustrate the promise of innovation ecosystems.
Sharing a recent example, Straeter said: “The Novio Tech campus in the Dutch city of Nijmegen has become a health and high-tech hub closely linked to the local community. It hosts our tenant Enzyre, an innovative and successful diagnostic company.
“While Enzyre was building a platform-based sensor that facilitates patient testing and treatment optimization, they were looking for small-scale production support. Located near Enzyre was CITC, a non-profit innovation hub with the right tools to operationalize this.”
What started as a coffee meeting at the science park has turned into a successful partnership between Enzyre and CITC, which has resulted in the construction of proof-of-concept prototypes that demonstrate Enzyre’s technology.
Another example of a successful company based in the same science park is that of Protinhi Therapeutics, a preclinical-stage biotechnology company that focuses on the development of antiviral drugs for infectious diseases.
“We are proud to have been able to support a company like Protinhi, which has strategically leveraged cross- and cross-campus collaborations, in its mission to address the high unmet clinical need for diseases like Dengue, Zika, West Nile fever and even recently Covid19,” Straeter said.
Similarly, at the Wageningen campus – located within the grounds of Wageningen University and Research (WUR) in the Netherlands – Kadans has helped to operate an agri-food research and production centre.
And two successful companies call this campus home: Yili, the growing Asian dairy company, and agri-tech accelerator StartLife, which entered into a partnership in 2021. This collaboration is a win-win situation, not only due to the geographic proximity of the two companies, but also the common goals that the companies share, said Straeter.
This partnership is a way for Yili to tap into the entrepreneurial resources of StartLife to think through and solve the problems the agribusiness industry needs to tackle in the future. In turn, Yili, with its strong experience in Asian countries, enables innovative healthy food start-ups to access opportunities in these emerging markets.
A knowledge-intensive and innovative future
The successful innovation that emerges from the science parks that Kadans helps leverage is proof that innovation ecosystems can achieve what they set out to do. However, the journey of building community in these businesses is a cyclical process, with plenty of room to grow.
“We consistently leverage the approach of optimizing the innovation ecosystem for our tenants across the many science parks in which we operate,” concludes Straeter. “As we acquire and shape more ecosystems across Europe, we will continue to work with our strategic partners at regional, national and international levels to connect organizations and form strong knowledge-sharing communities.”
To find out how you can partner with Kadans Science Partner and leverage the innovation ecosystem on offer to ensure your success, please visit the Company Website.
Connect here to listen to the ‘Building the Future’ podcast series where Kadans’ network partners share more about the innovative solutions they are developing for the problems they hope to solve.
Images courtesy of Kadans Science Partner.