Open Innovation Strengthening Ohio Companies

Written by Erin Hummeldorf.

Innovation is crucial to driving ideas, people and companies forward. Taking innovation one step further, open innovation takes advantage of not only internal, but also external ideas as businesses look to advance, grow and stay competitive. It provides solutions companies might not be aware of, and often those solutions come from another industry. Open innovation helps foster a healthy technology economy, but there are challenges with this new way of doing business. Limited resources such as time and staff, or high upfront costs, can discourage companies from pursuing game-changing innovation.

The good news is there are initiatives, such as the Ohio Third Frontier’s Open Innovation Incentive, working to help companies address their challenges and overcome the technical obstacles associated with a new product, service or process. Ohio Development Services Agency Innovation Manager Mihaela Jekic shared the message of how the state can help businesses tap into innovation during a workshop at the 2014 NineSigma Innovation Leadership Summit. As a result of the state’s partnership with NineSigma through the Open Innovation Incentive, the organization chose to hold the summit in Ohio for the first time since 2006, bringing together hundreds of innovation and technology leaders from around the country and world. Throughout the three-day conference, company presidents, heads of research and technical directors were able to network and attend seminars, learning about the latest and greatest in open innovation. The conversations throughout the conference demonstrated that open innovation is a valuable tool and strategy in advancing businesses.

“Bringing these leaders to Ohio shows that the world is paying attention,” said Jekic.

One company that has found success with the Open Innovation Incentive is Toledo’s Spartan Chemical Company. In April 2013, Spartan collaborated with NineSigma to engage in open innovation, taking the company to the next level. Vice President of Research and Development Bill Schalitz discussed the positive impact the Open Innovation Incentive has had on the company. He said it helped Spartan to better establish its spot in the marketplace by differentiating itself from other businesses with similar products, and actually led to the launch of a new product. Spartan is just one example of how the Open Innovation Incentive is working for companies across the state of Ohio.

According to Jekic, “The Open Innovation Incentive is helping companies tap into a global pool of experts to solve their most challenging innovation needs. More often than not, the solution they seek already exists in an entirely different industry.”

The Open Innovation Incentive works through partnerships to address the reality that middle-market companies (businesses with annual revenues between $10 million to $1 billion) often face barriers to open innovation. In Ohio, the state works closely with Open Innovation Intermediaries including Cleveland’s NineSigma and Beachwood’s to help companies find open innovation solutions. The program covers half of the costs associated with using the Open Innovation Intermediaries, or $12,500. By supporting innovation throughout Ohio, the Open Innovation Incentive is helping Ohio companies increase competitiveness and stay on the cutting-edge.

To learn more about the Open Innovation Incentive and Ohio Third Frontier, please click here.

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