Conference Review: European Open Innovation Summit in Brussels, May 2012

Courtesy World Research Group,, all rights reserved. I spoke about our "market for open innovation" study at the European Open Innovation Summit in Brussels last week.This was a new conference for me, but it was a good platform for exchange and discussion, and many of the usual suspects from the field were there.

Here are a few observations from the presentations at this event I liked most.


PSION: Open Source Mobility


Courtesy of Psion,, all rights reserved.Presentation helt by Todd Boone, Dirctor, Open Innovation. PSION
 is a Toronto based company producing special-purpose handheld computers (inventory taking, logistics, etc.). After feeling stronger and stronger competition, they changed their business model from an internal closed R&D process to a modular open innovation approach.

And they are utilizing a toolkit for user innovation as their open innovation tool. Indeed, PSION is one of the very few companies that really out this method of OI into practice.

The present toolkit allows anyone to build new hardware products by combining pre-existing modules into new application. Anyone in the community can get the CAD files of all products and components. It also allows external people to integrate PSION's hardware components with external components.

The outcome for PSIONAllowing to create new business opportunities very flexibly, especially in fields where the company had no previous experience. Take the medical device industry. Here, their open plattform allowed a fast cooperation with medical company that brought industry knowledge and customer needs, and could use the toolkit to easily develop a new device which now is co-marketed. Psion alone never could have entered this market easily.


  • Get new markets and new revenue models
  • Create new products with higher margins, as these are out of the established competition
  • Get differentiated, distributed products with faster time to market


  • Convince all employees that open is not evil
  • Get board to accept that they do not know where all target markets are; and what these markets want (tough insight to get for board / Psion's stratgey people),
  • Competing philosphies: "We want to be innovative" (but in a domain we know) is offset by "We've never done that before …" (we don't know how to handle it).
  • Opening the business culture: Establish open attitude to listen and respond


LEGO: Making Open Innovation a Strategy at Lego


Courtesy of LEGO,, all rights reserved.Presentation helt by Erik Hansen, Senior Director, Technology Innovation. LEGO since long is known as one of the companies that really take user innovation and lead user ideas seriously. With their new OI initiative, they want to expand this perspective from user innovation to technical and process innovation, too.

4 Value pools shall be tapped into by formal OI initiative

  • Internal talent
  • Entrepreneurs (lead users)
  • Kids and AFoLs (creative customers)
  • Companies and other profess. institutions (beyond a few established partnerships like with MII Media Lab)

4 pilot products

  • Technical OI in the production area -> can we solve "unsolvable" problems in our manufactuing process by extenral input? (e.g. electricity, statische AUFLADUNG)
  • improving the core LEGO experience through crowdsourcing (= building box set for the first time and then deconstructing it and building something again -> can we here create service innovation by crowdsourcing?
  • A HR platform for internal OI
  • Open Innovation platform (i.e. a Lego Factory 2.0 ?? -> build an established dialogue for customers to share their ideas and experiences)


NOKIA: Idea Crowdsourcing


Courtesy of Nokia,, all rights reserved. Presentation helt by Pia Erkinheimo, Head of Crowdsourcing,.NOKIA's, an online idea contest originating from this hypethesis: Who provides more value? A bored professional or an enthusiastic amateur?

Structured around different contest, e.g. ideas for a mobile micro-task platform, which git 900+ ideas.

In total Nokia got:

  • 11,000 ideas
  • 20,000 community members
  • 21,000 "likings" of the community members
  • 1,660,000 page visits of 10-60 min. per single visit


Under Armour: Being Open as Part of the Business Model: Trust for Open Innovation


Courtesy of Under Armour,, all rights reserved.Presentation helt by Jason Berns , Director of Innovation. Under Armour gave a very good presentation on the need of the US sports brand to build trust and be a good partner in open innovation. Jason shared great insight how the spirit of "sportsmenship" at UA is driving their open inovation initiative with smaller companies and individuals.

While it was inisghtful for me at this conference that managers in OI today are not (just) talking any longer about the "why" and "how" of open innovation, but much more about open innovation readiness, internal structurs, policies, capabilities etc., it was Jason's presentation that really reminded us the in the end the core success factor of OI will be to create a win-win partnership.

About the Author:

Frank T. Piller is a Co-Director of the MIT Smart Customization Group at the MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and a chair professor of management at the Technology & Innovation Management Group of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, one of Europe’s leading institutes of technology. Before entering his recent position in Aachen, he worked at the MIT Sloan School of Management (2004-2007) and has been an associate professor of management at TUM Business School, Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Economist, and Business Week, amongst others, Frank is regarded as one of the leading experts on strategies for customer-centric value creation, like mass customization, personalization, and innovation co-creation. His recent analysis of the crowdsourcing business model “Threadless” (co-authored with Susumu Ogawa), an innovative crowdsourcing business model in the fashion industry, has been elected as one of the Top-20 articles in MIT Sloan Management Review.