By: was invited to participate in an innovation lab conducted by the Chair of Technology and Innovation Management (TIM), School of Business and Economics of the RWTH Aachen University. Read more to find out about their recent studies and key points from professor Frank Piller, globally acknowledged expert on user innovation and Open Innovation, mass customization and continuous/incremental vs discontinuous/radical innovation.

RWTH Aachen is regarded by local HR managers as Germany’s top university. TIM was one of the first management research groups in the German-speaking countries to focus on the management aspects of product development and launch. It is also one of the leading university departments in Germany for innovation management.

The innovation lab event was scheduled to inform business and academia about the current status of INTEGRO, one of the TIM projects. INTEGRO focuses on the integration of innovation, knowledge and HR management in companies and networks of high-tech industries. It provided much food for thought; two of the presentations particularly stand out.

Prof. Frank Piller, Dean of the TIM, is a globally acknowledged expert on user innovation and Open Innovation, mass customization and continuous/incremental vs discontinuous/radical innovation. In his speech he made two main points.

Success in external co-innovation depends on appropriate discontinuity

A recent TIM study on 180 co-innovation projects analysed the contribution of external co-innovation. The key question addressed was how success in innovation projects correlates with co-innovator interaction and the level of discontinuity of the innovation. The study was designed to enable external co-innovators (customers, suppliers, competitors and universities) to be differentiated.

Prof. Piller proved that there is a statistically significant correlation between success, innovation discontinuity, and interaction with external co-innovators. It is important that innovation managers are clear about the degree of discontinuity before deciding about which type of co-innovation partner(s) to choose, and designing the type of interaction. Otherwise the efficiency and effectiveness of their interaction may not be good enough to secure success of the innovation project.

Open Innovation accelerators: Only a few are knowledge-efficient

TIM has observed strong growth in the number of intermediaries for Open Innovation (Atizo, InnoCentive, NineSigma, etc.). It decided to undertake what is probably the first comprehensive study on their business models and the way they operate.

They analysed 43 intermediaries in depth. The research found that they differ by information requirements and ways of initiating collaboration. TIM identified eight dominant patterns of collaboration between manufacturer and external actors. Of the 43 intermediaries analysed, InnoCentive, NineSigma and Yet2 were identified as platforms that integrate external knowledge very efficiently. will publish an IM Feature Article on this study in the near future.

Working on an Open Innovation Readiness tool

Phillip WagnerPhillip Wagner reported on his project, which is directed at providing a tool for self-assessing Open Innovation Readiness. His working hypothesis is that this depends on four factors: communication and incentives, and their roots in structures/methods and culture. The final self-assessment tool will be based on a comprehensive questionnaire covering these four factors.

Key take-away from the day

TIM, one of Germany’s leading research institutions on innovation management, sees three factors as essential for successful external co-innovation / Open Innovation. One is choosing the right partner, depending on the degree of innovation discontinuity. The second is choosing the right Open Innovation intermediary since they play an important role in the Open Innovation process. The third is to have an Open Innovation-ready organisation, measured in terms of suitable structures / methods, communication culture and incentives.

By Frank Mattes, contributing editor, Germany

About the author

Frank MattesFrank Mattes, contributing editor, Germany. Frank is the founder and CEO of innovation-3, a leading Open Innovation catalyst. Frank has collected more than 15 years of experience in managing projects and innovation. He worked for specialized medium-sized national consulting companies as well as for The Boston Consulting Group. Additionally he was working at C-level for an eBusiness firm, an IT firm and a Professional services firm. He wrote several books, numerous articles and is a sought after speaker. More information about innovation-3 and Frank can be found at