The Changing Face of Innovation

Silicon Valley has long been the wellspring of innovation. While its culture and investment models have been embraced around the world, the “Valley” has held on to its reputation for creating industry ‘firsts’. Corporations and countries, including Australia, tap into this wellspring by establishing Innovation Hubs and Research Centers in Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley has long been the wellspring of innovation. While its culture and investment models have been embraced around the world, the “Valley” has held on to its reputation for creating industry ‘firsts’. It is located in California, which is the 19th largest economy in the world, home to 33 of the Fortune 500 and 62 of the Fortune 1000.

Corporations and countries, including Australia, tap into this wellspring by establishing Innovation Hubs and Research Centers in Silicon Valley. By mid-2019, 46 companies have established hubs focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Digital Health, Bio-engineering, Frontier Technology, Cybersecurity and Green Manufacturing.

Looking to the next decade, the face of innovation will change with no one country or region dominating.

Innovation is becoming a global endeavor of cross-industry and cross-border initiatives and ecosystems. The future is less about one country claiming leadership but the democratization of innovation is fundamentally redefining industries. That’s not to say companies aren’t engaged in innovation. Most are capitalizing on new business models, new ways to meet evolving customer needs, and disrupting their industries. But forging ground-breaking inventions in new fields, markets and disciplines? Not so much.

What will innovation look like in 2020s?

Collaborative inter-connected ecosystems that span borders and organizations ranging from universities, national research labs to companies of all sizes focused on finding new applications for existing technologies and scientific discoveries. Along the way, true invention and disruptive innovation is made. These partnerships often referred to as open innovation, are the secret sauce of how global organizations disrupt themselves and stay ahead of nimble startups continually nipping at their heels.

The top innovation areas reshaping the next decade include:

  • Health & Wellness: Immuno-Oncology, Quantum biology, RNA Drugs
  • Medical Devices & Imaging: Molecular Radiotherapy, Optoacoustic imaging
  • Environment & Sustainability: Ag4.0, Battery Recycling, Carbon Upcycling
  • Energy: Airborne Wind Power, Modular Reactors, Grid Energy Storage
  • Information & Communication: Exascale Computing, ConvNets, Big Data, AI
  • Microelectronics: 5G Chipsets, Virtual Retinal Display, Bi-Directional Charging
  • Sensors & Instrumentation: Biodegradable Sensors, Sensor Fusion, IoT
  • Advanced Manufacturing: 5D Printing, Swarm Robotics, Autonomous Systems
  • Chemicals & Advanced Materials: Fast-ion Conductors, Advanced Ceramics

These collaborative inter-connected ecosystems that form the backbone of open innovation enhance overall competitive positioning of organizations by externalizing research and development. Profitability increases through a myriad of ways including licensing, crowd-sourcing, purchasing new technologies, etc.

Organizations wanting to be part of the next era of innovation need to structure their internal processes and programs to quickly and efficiently spot, assess and capitalize opportunities for disruption – across the globe, in their markets, customer bases, channels, and products. From there they need to invest in symbiotic partnerships with research organizations, like CSIRO US, who can help scale research, business models and expand ecosystems.

Based on my experience having run five companies including my own, the advice I give to organizations looking to capitalize on open innovation is:

  1. Senior leadership buy-in at the highest level in the organization
  2. Who does this report to? Who makes the go/no-go decisions?
  3. Timeline for clearly stated agreed upon goals and objectives.
  4. Who does what and to/with whom internally?
  5. An active pipeline of deals and a long term horizon for returns.
  6. Alignment and integration with corporate strategy, corporate development, R&D, and other venturing, M&A activities.
  7. Active relationships with the innovation ecosystem, partner and co-investor network.
  8. And a supportive culture with long term strategic vision and patience!

Open innovation ecosystems enable ground-breaking inventions that require five, ten or more years to materialize without the pressure for rapid exists.  One of the best examples of open innovation is the work that CSIRO US is doing with Boeing to advance space commercialization with collaborative research in new manufacturing processes, coatings, fire retardants, and software for data analytics[1].

This new decade of innovation will rapidly reshape competitive landscapes and economy drivers. The opportunity, and the threat, is in the ripple effect innovations will have on established industries, jobs, and standards of living.  As a result societies and business models will be permanently transformed in good and in unintended ways.

The key to success is having a clear vision of the future and bringing it to fruition through partnerships. CSIRO has been a proven long-term partner to numerous US leaders. Last year, CSIRO celebrated the 75th year anniversary of a partnership with NASA[2]. Both organizations are working on innovation crucial to the success of missions to the Moon and Mars.

This article has been written by Susan Lucas-Conwell, Executive Vice President of CSIRO US. 

[1] https://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2018/Boeing-CSIRO-expand-partnership

[2] https://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2019/Australia-NASA-partnership