Government department champions open innovation

September 30, 2009 at 1:22 pm Leave a comment

by John Craig

Spot the Government department.  It spends more than 6% of its budget on R&D, runs an open innovation system to which anyone can contribute any proposal and deliberately forgoes IP on its investments to to encourage innovation and growth.  Give up?  It’s the Ministry of Defence.

I met today with a representative of the Centre for Defence Enterprise, which seems to be transforming the Department’s image as ‘hard to approach’.  You can read more about the Centre here.  They have been critical in helping innovators to develop innovations that no one was expecting until they happened.  Like D30, the material that is soft when you wrap it round your iPhone, but on shock becomes rock hard, preserving it when you drop it on the floor.  That’s militarily significant, but without an open innovation strategy, it’s not something you would think to ask for.

I admit, even forgetting the geopolitics, I find much of ‘defence’ just horrifying.  Let’s put that aside for a moment and focus on Government sponsorship of innovation.  It’s heartening to see a Department admit that not only does it not have all the answers, it does not fully understand the challenges it faces.  It’s more impressive to see them respond to that analysis with appropriate seriousness and ambition.  And they are keen for others to learn from their work and to build on the tools and processes they have developed.  I would certainly love to do that.  For now, however, when a civil servant suggests that open innovation is a luxury for the good times, I can tell them about the hard-headed analysts who have invested in it and the lives it’s saving.  Now, how many lives could public services save if we invested in open innovation on this scale…?

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Entry filed under: Government Departments, Innovation Policy. Tags: , , , , .

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