O ver the past few weeks, I’ve been exploring the challenge of improving the productivity of the ecosystem surrounding a research university like Purdue. There some interesting reading on the topic, but it appears to me that we are not carefully distinguishing between ecosystems designed to accelerate the formation of new companies and ecosystems designed to accelerate innovation within existing companies.
The two are different, but related. A couple of examples will illustrate the point.
The University of Cambridge anchors an important effort to accelerate the innovation within UK manufacturing firms by integrating services into their product offerings. They call this integration, rather awkwardly, the “servitization of manufacturing”. To explore the networks that accelerate this work, they’ve produced a useful working paper, Thriving in Open Innovation Ecosystems: Towards a Collaborative Market Orientation.
In contrast, Victor Hwang, a venture capitalist, has written a valuable book, The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Silicon Valley. His book explores the design of startup ecosystems.
Within a research university like Purdue, we have both a startup ecosystem and an innovation ecosystem. By distinguishing between the two, we’ve been able to understand how the University can leverage its assets more extensively. Every research university is facing the same dilemma: finding new ways to monetize extensive assets within the university.
Distinguishing between the startup ecosystem and the innovation ecosystem provides a good starting point. In the past few months we’ve been working with our colleagues from the Fraunhofer institutes in Germany to think through how we might make our innovation ecosystem more productive. We will be rolling out these experiments in 2014. our exploration is framed by this strategic question: “How do we design and strengthen the Purdue innovation ecosystem following Fraunhofer design principles?”