Strategic partnerships could boost innovation in Oklahoma
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our business community can help move innovation forward in Oklahoma.
Many successful companies have some sort of dedicated innovation funding. The idea is to allocate talent, budget and resources to invention and experimentation inside the company, encouraging innovation from the inside out. The belief is that a successful company with a great track record of intellectual property and leading-edge products can continue to invent and bring to markets new things on its own. Think of GE as a perfect example of this sort on inside out innovation.
Some companies prefer not to innovate internally and use innovation funds for acquisition of innovation developed outside the company. This is common in biotechnology, for example, where industry giants are continually scanning for startups and spinouts from universities and research institutions that have reached early clinical trials in advanced therapies. Large companies like Google, Amazon and IBM also often choose buy over make.
It seems to me that there is another path to corporate innovation that we could leverage more in this state — strategic partnerships between existing Oklahoma companies with startups that are developing leading edge technologies and solutions that solve problems of the company or its customers.
When a company finds a startup (or more than one) that’s tackling a problem it wants to solve, becoming an early investor or strategic partner in that startup opens some interesting doors.
Consider, for example, the transformative powers of big data solutions. With the efficiencies of cloud computing, it’s becoming increasingly efficient and affordable to analyze massive amounts of historical and current data to make better business decisions. A startup developing data analytics solutions can go in many directions.
Now imagine an established Oklahoma company that sees competitive opportunity in big data analytics. This company has legacy distribution, inventory and forecasting systems. It wants to interface with all kinds of data sets — some it controls and some it doesn’t — from raw materials to point of sale to weather history. This company decides to use a portion of its innovation funding to invest in the startup.
The startup can benefit from working with a company that is a ready beta for market and technology validation, brings the resources and experience to help the startup improve the solution, and that by investing, puts skin in the game when it comes to the startup’s long term success.
As a beta customer/investor, the company gains first access to the startup’s technology and the opportunity to influence functionality and features — and most importantly a potential competitive edge.
At i2E, we work with startups that are creating big data and other advanced technology solutions for diversified industries. They will make good strategic partners for someone. Shouldn’t it be you?
Did You Know?
In a recent survey of 246 CEOs from around the world, 64 percent say that innovation and operational effectiveness are equally important to the success of my company.
Read the story at The Oklahoman. (Requires subscription)
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.