Co-operating on innovation

Co-operating on innovation

The sudden arrival of the covid lockdown forced many organisations to review their operating model and to swiftly innovate solutions which enabled them to continue to serve their customers to the best of their ability. Admittedly, some of those solutions worked better than others, whilst some industries were hampered in their efforts by legislation. Nevertheless, the exercise did demonstrate that innovation did not have to be a long drawn-out affair and that by drawing on outside expertise businesses could move quickly to put viable solutions in place.

That spirit of co-operation is reflected in the UK Innovation Survey 2021 report which was published on 12 May 2022. The report, which covers a two year period, reveals that in the period under review 58% of businesses had co-operation arrangements with other entities, a rise of nine percent from the previous period.  Perhaps unsurprisingly the greatest percentage of arrangements involved suppliers. But clients, external R&D providers, universities, and others all played their part; with some 45% of businesses even having arrangements with competitors.

Such innovation agreements may well enable leaders to meet their legal obligations to promote the success of their company. But executives also need to remember that they have a duty to exercise reasonable care, skill, and diligence. Collaborative relationships, therefore, need to be fully researched and defined in order to ensure that they will deliver strong outcomes for the organisation.

With this in mind, businesses might decide to look at some of the advice set out in the international collaborative business relationships standard, ISO 44001:2017. The standard was drawn up to apply to every entity from small and micro businesses to multi-nationals and governmental organisations. It also encompasses a range of scenarios from single projects to multi-organisation agreements.

As with any business relationship due diligence comes first on the list, but it is by no means the only area for consideration. Clearly agreeing the aims and outcomes of the relationship, integrating the agreement into the organisational matrix, and setting in place monitoring and management pathways are also key to building a strong working relationship. And businesses should not forget the importance of communicating the aims and ambitions of the relationship both internally and to external stakeholders.

The UK Innovation Survey comments that “Innovation is a wider concept and recognises a bigger set of activities, including R&D, which contribute to improved organisational performance in businesses across the economy.” Well-researched and defined innovation which leverages external collaborations may help organisations to optimise those innovation outcomes.


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