What is open innovation: Definition and models to implement it

Ana Vilar García

Open innovation is one of the most popular innovation types. Learn what is open innovation, what open innovation models there are and what are its top advantages for your company.

What is open innovation?

In the business world, open innovation is a model that seeks to find new business models, products or services by collaborating with external agents and organizations

Its opposite is internal or closed innovation, where this innovative process takes place within a company and uses its own resources -monerary, personal and temporal. 

By welcoming external actors, a company that goes for open innovation can benefit from more creative talent, experts on adjacent fields, and build alliances with key partners. The spirit of open innovation relies on collaboration: by sharing ideas, experiences and knowledge, companies can obtain more and better outcomes.

👉 In order to know more about what is corporate innovation and innovation in business, take a look at the Corporate Lab Blog. 👈

How to implement open innovation? Open innovation models

In order to better understand what is an open innovation strategy, let’s explore different open innovation models.

Hackathons, innovation challenges and calls for ideas

If you know you want to collaborate with others and are looking for new ideas, but not exactly sure what, this open innovation model can be a good first step to approach corporate innovation.

Hackathons, innovation challenges and calls for ideas have many features in common. They all are a type of contest where different teams or individuals come up with ideas and develop projects. If your company is organizing this event, you can define criteria, such as the sector, the requirements of the projects, the evaluation process and so on and so forth. 

The benefits of organizing hackathons, challenges and calls for ideas are many and varied. It’s a way to discover new technologies, processes, new business models, products or services. 

Plus, you can also discover new talent - a key point if you’re looking to develop your own internal innovation programs. Apart from benefiting your company, these open innovation events are great for the participants as well. They can get their hands on an attractive award, start their own project, or find job opportunities. Plus, this open innovation model contributes to building a community around your company and the participants. 


Partnerships are a good old marketing strategy and they are a valid option for large corporations that aim to innovate. 

Some sectors are more prone to partner up than others. Tech or science corporations can find a great match with universities or science centers, while environmental companies can team up with public administrations, among others. These are only two examples, but possibilities are endless. 

Startup scouting, incubators and corporate accelerators

Startups are probably the most innovative type of company there is. Their agile way of working and the premise of building a completely new product for the market are two key factors that make startups attractive for larger companies when it comes to innovating.

The collaboration between startups and large corporations is one the best types of open innovation models there are. On the one hand, startups can benefit from the corporation's resources (for instance, their HR, legal and finance departments) and platforms to start testing their product and build a long-term career. On the other hand, corporations can get useful ideas for their own processes, products and services. It’s a win-win situation. 

In order to implement open innovation in collaboration with startups, you can start a startup scouting program, an incubator program or an acceleration program.

In some cases, acquiring a startup that has built exactly what you were looking for can also be a good option. 

👉Not sure what’s the difference between an accelerator and an incubator? Find out in the Corporate Lab blog. 👈

Why open innovation? Advantages of teaming up with external actors

There are many reasons to go for open innovation. We have gathered some of them:

1. Better and broader innovation: New or updated products, services, and business models

Every type of innovation aims to create new -or improve- business models, products or services. The difference with open innovation is that the goal is achieved with fresher ideas. While internal innovation uses only internal resources (hence, ideas), open innovation gathers different points of view from different individuals. Variety is the spice of life and thanks to open innovation you can be sure you access it.

2. Staying ahead of the competition and the market curve

One of the points of innovation is staying ahead of your competitors or unexpected changes in the market. Managing an innovative company ensures you build good defensibility measures and are aware of possible switches in the market. 

3. Building a strong community

Networking is always a good idea and open innovation is great for it too. Enlarging your contact list with new and external agents may be the tool you need to scale your business or come up with a new one. 

4. A sign of maturity

Open innovation is considered a sign of maturity. If a business can successfully develop open innovation programs, this probably means its innovation department has overcome its initial phases and is now ready for more.

Not sure where to start? Start with us. Drop us a line and discover what new paths you can explore. At Corporate Lab, we are experts of new business building and corporate venturing. Let’s chat! 👇

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