Why Open Innovation Platforms Matter & How to Pick The Best One

Neal Silverman

In an era where digital transformation has become the primary enabler of company growth and competitive differentiation for large enterprises, innovation is the ingredient that fuels success. Innovation is the process of finding relevant new ideas and applying them to your business.

When we think of the biggest names in technology today, like Tesla, Apple, and Google, we think of innovation. But a company's own internal knowledge, sources, and resources don’t drive innovation alone.

Companies often need to look outside their own walls to find the best ideas. That’s where open innovation comes in. Open innovation platforms enable you to manage innovative ideas and channel them into actionable steps.

What is Open Innovation?

So, what exactly is open innovation? Open innovation involves:

  1. Scouting for business ideas and technologies outside your company
  2. Evaluating those ideas and potential partners
  3. Piloting the best ones
  4. Scaling those ideas across the organization

Perhaps one of the best known examples of open innovation is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, otherwise known as DARPA, which was formed in 1958 and has been responsible for such breakthrough technologies as the Internet; GPS; Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog robot; and yes, Apple’s very own “Siri.” 

Many well-known and even iconic companies such as Lego, Samsung, General Electric, and NASA have used open corporate innovation as a catalyst for reaching new heights of business growth.

What are Open Innovation Platforms (OIPs)?

When a company's objective is to develop core technologies to create a competitive advantage and change their industry, it is vital to create an environment where both internal and external creative thinkers can work together seamlessly. This is the purpose of an open innovation platform (OIP). At its core, an open innovation platform is a collaborative tool enabling organizations to accelerate business innovation using external companies, products, and ideas. 

Rather than cobbling together various workflows and spreadsheets that create confusion, complexity, and data silos, an open innovation platform follows a set of standardized processes that can empower teams to work more collaboratively towards a common creative goal. Open innovation is considered a minimum standard for corporate success, with an increasing number of global organizations practicing elements of open innovation across their technology and business projects.

Benefits of Using an Innovation Platform

Open innovation platforms offer many key benefits such as more efficient, automated, and organized innovation process workflows that allow large, cross-functional teams to discover, evaluate, and implement new technologies quickly and carefully. 

Imagine if a team of business leaders, product managers, and engineers from Detroit, Shanghai, and Berlin are tasked to rethink their company’s entire product supply chain to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the company. Where do they even start? How would they find new, greener suppliers who can lower overall carbon emissions while maintaining or exceeding current product quality standards? How would they manage their technology scouting and innovation strategy? 

This is where a cloud-based, end-to-end innovation management software solution can help tremendously. What if this team had the ability to:

  1. Collect and organize new technology requests from internal stakeholders
  2. Locate vendors with the right technologies and skill sets
  3. Collaborate with cross-functional teams and track KPIs
  4. Track RFIs, host live vendor demos, and map progress

And what if they could accomplish all this seamlessly from one centralized platform? Such a tool would be worth its weight in gold – amounting to a ton of time, cost, and efficiency savings. More importantly, it would produce better outcomes and decisions around which technologies to adopt. That is the value that open innovation platforms provide. 

The 5 Best Open Innovation Platforms

Ever since open innovation has become a major influence in the emerging technology marketplace, scores of platforms have emerged, creating innovation ecosystems that contribute towards the evolution and growth of organizations across the business spectrum. Our aim here is to dig deeper into what we believe to be the most exciting and comprehensive open innovation platforms on the market today. While we aren’t exactly objective, after building an open innovation platform ourselves we know what works, and what doesn’t. Let’s dig into five open innovation platforms that are driving today’s top creative business initiatives and helping teams to build cool and interesting products that are changing the world.

Traction Technology – Innovation Management Made Simple
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What is it?

Traction Technology is a cloud-based innovation management platform that helps businesses automatically evaluate the fastest-growing new technologies that they can apply to their digital transformation projects. Its comprehensive, end-to-end platform covers every step of the innovation journey: from discovery to evaluation and implementation. The platform is uniquely coupled to Traction’s technology scouting services, which enable customers to avoid time-consuming research to discover the most impactful emerging technologies and startups to help solve core business challenges. 

What are the key features?

Traction’s primary value proposition is its enterprise innovation management platform that pulls together all the companies, people, data, and workflows enterprise teams need to evaluate and manage new technology projects. Traction achieves this by offering a flexible, centralized space where internal and external stakeholders can collaborate to solve real-life business challenges. Primary features include idea management, innovation challenges, technology scouting, vendor solicitation management, advanced company search and charting tools, project management, customizable workflows, reporting, simple RFIs, virtual events, and the ability to host and manage challenges – all within a secure, cloud-based environment. APIs and integrations with Salesforce, Microsoft, and Crunchbase make it easy to collaborate across (and pull in data from) other critical enterprise systems.

Traction’s research-as-a-service component also connects organizations with a veteran team of analysts to discover, evaluate, and recommend new technologies to solve their unique business challenges.

Who does it benefit?

The platform is a perfect match for innovation, IT, and corporate development teams working in organizations looking to build digital transformation strategies but wishing to alleviate the heavy time and cost commitments of tracking down the right emerging technology for each specific project. Traction is a great match for businesses of any size (from mid-size businesses to Fortune 500) and works with some of the world’s most recognizable brands. 

SwitchPitch – Connecting Startups, Enterprise, and Ecosystems

What is it?

Born out of a reverse-pitching event series, SwitchPitch is a startup engagement platform that aims to alleviate the challenge for startups to find corporate partnerships. By “switching” the model, SwitchPitch has created a proprietary database of over 360,000 startups that can be searched by technology, location, funding, and more. Similar to how LinkedIn provides a forum to match employees with businesses, SwitchPitch puts small businesses and startups on the radar of the right contacts at established corporations looking to partner with innovative teams.

What are the key features?

SwitchPitch provides a new way for big and small companies to do business together. The platform offers corporations a unique dashboard for monitoring tasks and interactions with startups they’re considering for projects.

Profiles are crawled from startups’ websites and analyzed to identify specific keywords. Startups can either create their own profiles or claim an existing account with an email address matching their company’s domain. Startups then have the option to enhance that profile with portfolio projects they’ve completed for other clients.

Once corporations have found startups that meet their project requirements, SwitchPitch offers tracking features that guide them through their custom due diligence process and narrow the selection to startups they want to do business with.

Who does it benefit?

The platform is a great resource for helping larger companies find innovative startups to partner with on projects, and for startups that are looking for new corporate partnerships. 

Wazoku – Where Innovation Works 

What is it?

Wazoku (formerly Innocentive) is a cloud-based idea management platform based in London that empowers midsize and large companies to successfully innovate at scale and change the world “one idea at a time.” Wazoku enables users to design customizable idea submission pages; once ideas are submitted, they can be voted on and tracked with gamification features that make the lifecycle of ideation to innovation fun and engaging.

What are the key features?

Wazoku’s enterprise modular platform provides idea submission, collaboration, gamification, and analytics functionalities within one large, integrated ecosystem. The AI-powered Wazoku Platform consists of a series of engines (innovation, data, workflow, and engagement) that power the entire system. Innovation_360 is the Innovation Operating System which includes a suite of innovation products, tools, and resources that enable users to connect, plan, and transform their organizations – all from one convenient location. And Wazoku Crowds provides users with access to an external crowd of millions of proven problem solvers for help with today’s biggest innovation challenges.

Who does it benefit?

The platform is perfect for mid to large-size organizations that want to engage and collaborate in an efficient and scalable way with their workforce, ecosystem, and customers to develop ideas that change the world.

Ennomotive – Next Gen Open Innovation

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What is it?

Ennomotive is an open innovation platform that uses crowdsourcing from a community of over 20,000 engineers and startups to help companies solve real-life technical challenges. An organization can sign up on the platform by proposing a technical challenge. They will then receive replies from qualified engineers who then have the chance to win cash prizes and community recognition.

What are the key features?

Ennomotive’s major advantage is its sponsorship of open innovation ecosystems, or hubs, where experts, startups, and companies can meet to develop products and services around a particular topic. Ennomotive’s biggest value is providing an infrastructure that makes it easier for organizations to accelerate the development of their products and services by crowdsourcing and connecting them with thousands of experts and startups from all over the world. Through sponsorship of open innovation challenges (with over 80 solved so far), Ennomotive connects real-life solutions to complex business challenges in a scalable global context. 

Who does it benefit?

This platform helps create partnerships between organizations needing solutions to real-life business problems and startups or individuals trying to solve complex problems. 

Brightidea – Harness the Power of Global Innovation

What is it?

Brightidea is a cloud-based idea management software solution that readily helps corporate teams crowdsource ideas and build strategic plans. With over 2.5 million global users and $15+ billion in recorded business impact, Brightidea is on a mission to transform how the world innovates.

What are the key features?

Brightidea provides a suite of tools that cover the innovation journey – from ideation and evaluation to incubation, tracking, and reporting – to ensure the best ideas win. The platform uses crowdsourcing and crowdfunding to help companies run innovation challenges effectively at scale. Brightidea allows users to create microsites that host proposed solutions to specific technology challenges with discussion features to evaluate those solutions. Managers also have access to a scoring system to assess the solutions based on feasibility and decide on funds approval.

Who does it benefit?

This platform is ideally suited to midsize and large companies that either have an established innovation team or want to expand by building a focused innovation culture across the business lifecycle.

Choosing the Right Platform

Now that we’ve discussed the nature of open innovation and why it’s important, along with some of the most robust innovation platforms on the market, how do you go about choosing the right one? That’s the million-dollar question, and finding the right innovation solution can seem a bit daunting, given all the choices out there. To determine which platform is best suited to your needs, here are some of the primary questions you’ll need to ask yourself.

What are your goals?

It might sound a bit cliché, but you really need to nail down your business vision and goals for open innovation to work effectively. Treat this initiative as a startup and consider framing up a business model canvas to identify what your main value proposition is. 

Ask yourself what business challenges you are trying to solve and who it will benefit. Identify your target audience and your main partners, channels, and segments of activity. This exercise will vastly help you and your team understand the “why” behind your initiative and how open innovation will help you achieve that vision. 

What feautures meet your business vision?

Now that you’ve identified what you want to accomplish with open innovation, think of the platform as the vehicle to help you get there. This is all very subjective too, and often will depend upon a platform that aligns with your own values and philosophy of doing business. 

A simple but effective strategy is to line up all the features that you absolutely need in an innovation product and then map those against your team’s top choices. Distilling your research down to two or three platforms will prepare you to take a deeper dive to find the best fit.  

Run a pilot program

No matter how hard you vet an open innovation product, ultimately, the choice will come down to how well it aligns with your team’s way of working. Like shopping for a car, you can do all the research and analysis upfront, but a few test drives are necessary to make a final decision. 

No amount of vetting or shortlisting will help you to understand how an innovation platform works under the hood. Piloting the software is essential to understand if it’s a good match for your business needs. In fact, many providers offer free trials or pilot evaluation programs, like Traction. Feel free to reach out to us at Traction Technology to claim your free 14-day trial of the platform.

In Summary

Like digital transformation, open innovation is fast becoming a standard business practice within most corporate settings. At the same time, the road to implementing an effective innovation environment can seem a bit overwhelming. 

The most important assets you can bring to the table to start this critical journey are your team and your vision. Then it’s about researching, testing, evaluating, and piloting your ideas to come up with the best solution that fits your specific business needs. Selecting the right open innovation platform is the key to a successful journey.

Don’t try to boil the ocean, and don’t get lost in “analysis paralysis.” Be willing to experiment and make mistakes and learn from those experiences. At the end of the day, open innovation is about opening up your company to the best ideas and technologies outside your organization, bringing them into your organization, and then repeating the process over and over again. This is not something that can be done in a spreadsheet (although countless companies try). You need a robust open innovation platform to manage this process and make it easy for anyone in your organization to identify, evaluate, and adopt new technologies. 

Schedule an open innovation platform demo or consultation with Traction Technology today to find out how our platform can support your business growth and success.

Open Innovation Comparison Matrix

Traction Technology
Bright Idea
Idea Management
Innovation Challenges
Company Search
Evaluation Workflows
Project Management
Advanced Charting
Virtual Events
APIs + Integrations

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