“IF WE HAVE DATA, LET’S LOOK AT DATA. IF ALL WE HAVE ARE OPINIONS, LET’S GO WITH MINE.” JIM BARKSDALE, FORMER NETSCAPE CEO.
The US National Science Foundation’s Deborah Jackson describes an innovation ecosystem as “the complex relationships that are formed between actors or entities whose functional goal is to enable technology development and innovation.”
The innovation ecosystem includes all the participants of the research and commercial economies, which are driven respectively by fundamental research and the marketplace. Its success is directly related to the distribution of resources and the collaboration between them.
There are six major participants in innovation ecosystems:
- Universities & Research Institutions
- Accelerators & Incubators
- Startups and Scaleups
These participants hold an enormous amount of data that, if aggregated and made easily accessible, would have an extraordinary effect on the health and connectivity of the innovation ecosystem.
DISTRIBUTION OF RESOURCES IN THE INNOVATION ECOSYSTEM
Resources within the innovation ecosystem are not evenly distributed, nor are they easily accessible to the participants. There are multiple barriers to cross-collaboration of data between participants, these include: lack of visibility on who to connect with and how; belief that holding information could give them a competitive advantage; resource & system constraints; a rapidly changing startup environment; and participants dont feel incentivised to share data.
The six key resources are:
1. Innovation Infrastructure: including ‘hard’ infrastructure such as buildings, research facilities and equipment and ‘soft’ infrastructure such as
accelerator programs and mentors.
2. Capital: including grants, tax incentives and investment.
3. Innovation: primarily human capital creating IP or executing efficiently. This includes researchers, inventors, entrepreneurs, founders.
4. Commercialisation: processes, services, human capital dedicated to the process of introducing a new product or production method into
commerce - making it available on the market.
5. Customers: end users willing to pay for products and services resulting from innovation.
The above illustration demonstrates what resources each participant contributes to foster innovation, however it is often siloed. The below illustration shows how powerful the ecosystem could be if the participants were well connected and shared resources effectively.
NO SINGLE SOURCE OF TRUTH ON INNOVATION DATA
There is currently no single integrated system of record for innovation within or across ecosystem participants. The main reason for this is the difficulty in incentivising each participant to continuously update an aggregated data base.
As a result, data is fragmented, incomplete and outdated. Without data it is impossible to measure, map or benchmark innovation ecosystems. In particular:
- Governments are forced to formulate innovation policy based on, at worst, anecdotal evidence and, at best, from limited survey style data. Once a
policy is implemented there is insufficient data to demonstrate impact. Identifying and tracking grant recipients and the benefits to the broader
economy is extremely difficult.
- Universities and Research Institutes are unable to track or benchmark their researchers’ commercialisation efforts. They struggle to connect with
corporates/industry looking to partner or acquire innovative technology. As universities promote entrepreneurial studies and expand startup
programs on campus they struggle to navigate and connect students and researchers with the broader innovation ecosystem.
- Corporates have difficulty navigating the fragmented research, startup and scaleup ecosystems to identify relevant technology, partnerships or M&A
- Investors are faced with the benefits and challenges caused by rapidly increasing innovation activity. With the exponential increase in new startups it is
becoming difficult to scale investment activities and cut through the innovation ‘noise’ to gain insights into the most relevant investment
- Accelerators & Incubators are growing in size and importance and this is in direct proportion to increased innovation activity. Tracking cohorts, and
helping them to connect with mentors, investors and customers is difficult to scale without accessible data and platform connectivity.
- Startups and Scaleups founders must build networks of mentors, investors, partners and customers from the ground up. Network navigation and
connectivity is critical.