Executives Converge on Campus to Talk Open Innovation

More than 50 top executives from 30 companies that have experimented with opening their doors to innovation gathered on campus to discuss their experiences at the Berkeley Innovation Forum from Oct. 23 to Oct. 25.

The twice-yearly forum was created by Adjunct Professor Henry Chesbrough, PhD 97, eight years ago as a way to share the latest thinking on open innovation—Chesbrough’s pioneering concept that companies benefit more from seeking external ideas and sharing their research than by sealing themselves off from the global flow of information.

“The forum is a model for how companies can engage with the university for mutual benefit,” says Chesbrough, who serves as executive director of the Haas School's Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation. “There are companies that come because they are just beginning the process and want to learn more, while others are experts and want to train their own staff on the latest developments in open innovation.”

The fall meeting, which took place at the Berkeley Skydeck startup accelerator, included a talk by Professor David Teece, faculty director for the Institute for Business Innovation. The agenda also included a debate on innovation in China, a presentation by Haas undergraduates in Professor Solomon Darwin’s Open Innovation and Business Models course, and a forum for new members such as Mattel Inc.

“The forum provided a phenomenal opportunity to learn about new developments in open innovation, network with a think tank of peers, interact with students, and get a taste of Professor Henry Chesbrough’s latest innovation research,” says Olga Patel, Mattel's senior open innovation manager. “This is a magnificent aggregate of the knowledge base that is not easy to find.”

One of the keys to the Innovation Forum’s success, Chesbrough says, is that only executives from non-competing companies are selected to join, creating a relaxed and open atmosphere. Membership has grown to 35 companies from a wide range of industries, including Coca Cola, Clorox, Hewlett-Packard, DuPont, and firms from Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Companies pay $10,000 per year for membership.

While the primary purposes of the forum are to exchange ideas and share new research, Chesbrough says some concrete projects have come out of it over the years. For example, United Healthcare, Nike, and Best Buy decided to team up on a workplace health and wellness initiative following discussions at the forum, he says.

For more information on the Berkeley Innovation Forum, visit openinnovation.berkeley.edu/BIFpublic.html.

Adjunct Prof. Henry Chesbrough