Innovation intermediaries help collaborative food SMEs to create a bigger pie

Open Innovation

Open innovation is a product and process development model, whereby firms use external ideas, as well as internal ideas, to advance their offering. It can involve the sharing of risks and rewards with partners – such as customers, rival companies and academic institutions – in a permeable business environment where innovation can transfer inward to and outward from the enterprise.

Since companies cannot rely entirely on their own research, they have to buy or license processes or inventions from other entities. Internal inventions which are not strategically core to the firm’s business move out of the company, through licensing, joint ventures or spin-offs.

There are a number of challenges to the adoption of open innovation. One is the inability of in-house staff to adopt external knowledge for the benefit of the business.

A second challenge is the organisation’s inability to identify appropriate partners for the purpose of sharing internal expertise and forming joint ventures.

Our Research

According to our research, these issues are particularly relevant to the food manufacturing sector, which is characterised by a lower level of trust between stakeholders compared to other industries.

Food SMEs also have a low rate of participation in inter-organisational co-operation initiatives, which is a key component of open innovation.

The underlying reason for this failure is the inability of these organisations to deal with complex environments.

For example, food SMEs have difficulty identifying potential collaborators at the beginning of the innovation process, due to the fact that they have less access to information than larger firms and have limited financial resources with which to acquire essential intelligence.

These problems are compounded by limitations in their production capacity and marketing expertise. As a result, even when they develop a product or a process which has high potential, they are often unable to make it profitable.

Food SMEs also find it particularly difficult to acquire consumer market information, which is a key driver of innovation, in a sector where consumer preference is the primary consideration.

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Malachy Mitchell

Managing Director

As Farrelly and Mitchell's co-founder and Managing Director, Malachy provides unmatched expertise. Working alongside CEO's, executives, and leaders from public and private sectors, Malachy empowers agribusinesses to fully achieve their potential.

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