Investigating an open innovation platform to accelerate commercialisation
Mohalajeng, Lerato Education
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Successful entrepreneurship is an essential part of the globalised world of business. In South Africa, stimulating entrepreneurial activity had become the forefront of the economic development agenda as this is the greatest contributor to job creation and economic growth. As the competitive market rises, businesses are required to increasingly innovate in order to obtain a competitive advantage. The existence of an effective and efficient innovation value chain from idea to market is important in order to encourage the survival and growth of new businesses in South Africa. Through the innovation value chain, businesses across all industries are starting to embrace Open Innovation in order to maintain their competitive advantage, remain sustainable and in essence, meet consumer needs. Open Innovation is the use of inflows and outflows of knowledge beyond the boundaries of a business. The inflow of knowledge accelerates internal innovation while the outflow of knowledge expands the markets for the external use of innovation. It therefore plays a significant role in the economy as it stimulates entrepreneurship through commercialising new ideas. The problem is that whilst the benefits of Open Innovation in commercialising new inventions is widely spoken about, not much is understood on the successes of Open Innovation intermediaries (known as Open Innovation accelerators) in accelerating ideas to market or helping inventors and entrepreneurs commercialise their ideas. The primary objective of this research is to investigate the ability of an Open Innovation platform to accelerate the commercialisation of new ideas and inventions. Entrepreneurship within the innovation value chain and the challenges and opportunities presented by Open Innovation were investigated throughout this research. Open Innovation is now becoming a progressive business practice. As a result, the study was able to obtain current knowledge and perceptions regarding Open Innovation and the Open Innovation platform associated with accelerating commercialisation in South Africa. The researcher adopted a multi-methods approach to collect, analyse and report data. Multi-methods include both Quantitative and qualitative research methods. A total of 197 respondents and participants took part in the study. Data was collected primarily through the use of Quantitative research methods while qualitative data was collected to compliment the Quantitative information. The Quantitative method was used for analysing the demographic profiles of the respondents who participated in the research, as well as their perceptions regarding Open Innovation and the Open Innovation platform associated with accelerating commercialisation. A qualitative method was used to obtain a broader perspective of the Open Innovation platform from its stakeholders. The statistical analyses of Quantitative data were done with the assistance of the Statistical Consultation Service of the North-West University (Potchefstroom Campus), while the qualitative data was analysed by the researcher with the assistance of an expert. The results of the Quantitative and qualitative research indicate that respondents, regardless of their sector, business focus or level of education, have similar views regarding entrepreneurship, the innovation value chain, collaboration innovation, Open Innovation, Open Innovation accelerators and accelerating commercialisation in South Africa. Innovation, as the results highlighted, is applied throughout all functions of businesses and industries. It is a specific instrument of entrepreneurship and occurs in existing businesses, government agencies as well as research institutions across South Africa. When promoting Open Innovation it is import to ensure the collaboration and buy-in of the triple-helix because their involvement accelerates the process of making deals. Also, three supporting functions, marketing, funding and Intellectual Property protection, are required when employing Open Innovation in order to successfully accelerate commercialisation of a new product. Open Innovation accelerators are recommended to seek technical measures for actively preventing IP leakage rather than just advising the solution providers in regards to IP. Various IP protection programmes and methods exist. For Open Innovation accelerators, exerting entrepreneurial behaviour is essential. This implies having the ability to identify opportunities and take calculated risks. Open Innovation platform stakeholders should continuously recognise opportunities for solving solutions in unexpected domains and as a result effectively market the challenges across domains. Open Innovation in South Africa is a concept that is still emerging; patience and persistence is recommended if greater impact is to be realised. No one structure for Open Innovation is likely to be sufficient going forward. It is recommended that policymakers, research institutions and commercial enterprises explore various innovations across industries relevant to their Open Innovation proficiencies. Flexibility is therefore vital when implementing Open Innovation.