Henry Chesbrough, the father of open innovation, was one of the key note speakers when more than 500 innovative minds met on a European innovation conference in Lund, Sweden. asked him and some of the other participants a few questions.

Henry Chesbrough is adjunct professor and Executive Director of the Center for Open Innovation at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. He is the author of Open Business Models (Harvard Business School Press, 2006) and Open Innovation (Harvard Business School Press, 2003).

Your talk was about Open innovation: Is the R&D department an antiquated concept? How do companies gain access to the right competence at the right point in the innovation process? Why do you focus on that and why is it important?

– Moving towards open innovation involves rethinking the role of internal R&D organizations.  In my view, these internal people remain critically important.  And open innovation can leverage their talents, and create more value out of their abilities.  But it does require us to rethink the role of internal R&D.  Instead of doing it all inside, the key is to focus on the highly differentiating tasks, to fill in gaps in what is available externally, and most importantly, to create the systems and architectures that connect the many pieces together.

What would you say is the hottest trend in the field of innovation management today and why is that?

– Open innovation remains quite hot, and business model innovation is growing in importance as well.  I am hoping that we will extend our attention to innovation in services (vs. products) in the next year or two as well.

Everybody is talking about innovation and how important it is. Do you agree – is it really that important, and why is that?

– Yes, I do.  Innovation is a powerful source of growth for companies, and a generator of value.  Given the recent Great Recession, growth and value are even more important than before.  Now we have to find ways to achieve those goals without using additional resources.  Open Innovation is one path to doing that.

Which (or which ones) are the most important factors to create an innovative organisation?

– The most basic is the mindset of the company.  Organizations with innovative cultures encourage everyone to consider themselves part of the innovation process, rather than leaving it to a select group of people.  Another factor is openness inside the firm.  Many firms have strong siloes that prevent information from being shared.  Before making use of external ideas and knowledge, companies must learn to unleash the internal ideas and knowledge that may be languishing inside the organization.  A third factor is intellectual property.  Companies leave this to their attorneys, whereas IP needs to be understood and managed as a business function.  Often, more open IP processes can create new opportunities that a legal specialist won’t see.

Per Eriksson, playing the violin during his opening remark. “To make success you have to take risks” foto: Gunnar MenanderThe conference was jointly hosted by the University of Lund and the Region of Skåne together with other partners. Per Eriksson, the vice-chancellor at Lund University has declared innovation one of the universities three main tasks, besides education and research:

– The University of Lund have a big commitment to innovation and being part of a conference such as this is a way of making that commitment visible. We also believe we have a lot to learn from all the participants that have come together here in Lund.

Voices from the audience

Angelika Kolb-Telieps, Open Innovation Consultant, K-T Innovation, Germany.
– I´m here to get inspiration from the talks and maybe find some new models that I can apply for my business.

Björn Lindquist, VP, technology Strategy, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, Sweden.
– Innovation is very important to our business, for example how can we incorporate even more innovative thinking into our products. And I think the conference, so far, has a very good line up of speakers.

Anders Östsjö, Director, Technology project office, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, Sweden.
– I find the conference very inspiring and my focus is on how we can incorporate new technologies into our products in an innovative way.

Anne Selonen,  Alma Media, Finland
– I´m here to learn more about open innovation and how we can implement it in our own business.