Leading thinkers to gather for 4th Annual World Open Innovation Conference

Henry Chesbrough founded the WOIC Conference Since Adj. Prof. Henry Chesbrough wrote his pioneering 2003 book, Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology, the concept has become a mainstay of corporate strategists and product developers around the world.

Next month, leading thinkers will gather in San Francisco to discuss the latest trends—including the rise of machine learning and the development of new business models to enhance collaborative strategies—at the  4th Annual World Open Innovation Conference.

Open innovation calls for companies to make much greater use of external ideas and technologies in their own business and, in turn, give outsiders to their unused internal ideas.

Keynote speakers at the conference include:

  • David J. Teece, director of the Tusher Center for the Management of Intellectual Capital at Berkeley Haas
  • Arati Prabhakar, former director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
  • William Ruh, SVP & chief digital officer for GE, and CEO of GE Digital
  • Thomas Kalil, former deputy director of policy, The White House Office of Science & Technology Policy

Chesbrough, faculty director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, will chair the event, to be held Dec. 13-15 at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront.

We asked Chesbrough a few questions in preparation for the conference.

Who should attend?

Anybody who is interested in growth should attend. You’ll see new models of growth that leverage more knowledge from external resources, making innovation faster and more efficient. We expect managers from Europe, Japan, China, and India, and of course, many American companies.

Who will be speaking at the conference?

The mix of speakers is not what you’d typically see at most conferences. The chief digital officer of GE will discuss the digital transformation of his company, and keynote speakers who headed DARPA and held a leading position in the White House Office of Technology and Science will explain how the principles of open innovation can be shared with governments and public entities. David Teece, director of UC Berkeley’s Tusher Center for the Management of Intellectual Capital, will tie these themes together and explain why competitive advantage in the 21st century will be based on the ability to mobilize external resources.

What will this year’s conference cover?

We’ll focus on lessons learned by state, local, and national governments that have used open innovation to inform and strengthen the policy-making process. Traditionally the policy world talks to itself, or uses consultants to push ideas out to the world. But the world can participate directly in the formation of the policies and give feedback on execution. We will also see the latest academic research on open innovation, and experience challenges from leading companies who are trying to make it work in practice.

Can you provide a memorable insight from an earlier conference?

There’s one particular story from NASA. With budgets shrinking and a trip to Mars on the drawing board, NASA was turning to open innovation to solve the immense problems of interplanetary travel. The agency even crowdsourced the design for a new space suit. But, as attendees at the World Open Innovation Conference in 2014 learned, the new approach to innovation unsettled long-time employees of the space agency. Scientists at NASA went through an identity crisis. They asked, “When we go outside to ask citizens for their input what happens to me?” That’s just one example of a challenge in adapting to open innovation.

What are some trends that you are watching in open innovation?

Open innovation is moving into the realm of artificial intelligence. Machine learning and deep learning involve training machines with sets of data, and the more data you have the better the training. Open innovation holds that it is quite possible to aggregate disparate data sources from multiple, collaborating organizations.

Sharing data and sharing services creates value and new sources of revenue. But opening a business to outside partners requires the development of new business models. Firms need to find ways to manage the move to the new digital technologies that are reshaping the economy.

Why does open innovation matter as much today as it did when you developed the paradigm?

There is so much useful knowledge in so many places that it is a mistake to generate and protect your own knowledge to the exclusion of outside sources. It is much smarter to take advantage of that external knowledge and then add the pieces of internal knowledge that brings it to life and connects it together to deliver business value.