UK companies must work with rivals to boost growth

9th November 2012

Businesses which share the risk and rewards of developing new ideas with other like-minded companies and their employees are more likely to be successful during the recovery. This is according to a report by the Big Innovation Centre published today (11 September).

The report, Realising the value of open innovation, identifies a number of high-profile companies, such as PwC, Unilever, Google, Barclays and EDF Energy, who have been able to innovate more effectively through collaboration with competitors, employees and customers. The report argues that the benefits of sharing new, innovative ideas could help boost productivity across all of the key UK industries, such as advanced manufacturing, energy and utilities, pharmaceuticals, business and finance, and fast-moving consumer goods.

A good example of what is termed as 'open' innovation practice - sharing new ideas with other businesses - comes from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Since the company launched a new bioscience community, called the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, the company is developing ideas which are likely to radically inform and advance its medical research.

John Golightly, co-author of the report and visiting fellow from BAE Systems, said: "Innovative collaborations between big companies and other stakeholders are changing the way the modern economy innovates, and the workplace is having to change with them. New technologies and globalisation have transformed the way we communicate ideas. Our research shows that big business shouldn't view these developments as threats to their intellectual property rights, sharing ideas can boost company profits to significantly enhance value."

He added: "If the UK is to be a leading economy in the next decade, we need to quickly recognise and adapt to these changes. People are increasingly opting for portfolio-careers rather than careers for life, so collaboration is key. The 'closed' way in which many companies communicated ideas in the past is no longer the most effective way to boost business growth."

Benjamin Reid, senior researcher at the Big Innovation Centre said: "More than ever before, businesses are finding that in-depth collaborations with different stakeholders are helping them to develop products and services which meet the demands of today's sophisticated consumer. But there's no one-size-fits-all solution for organisations; UK businesses need to develop a culture which always seeks out opportunities for collaboration to add value."