With tech startups rapidly eating into traditional sectors, large organizations face an increased pressure to innovate. The challenge is that traditional innovation approaches are broken. A recent study revealed that only 5% of R&D staff feel highly motivated to innovate. In certain sectors, more than 85% of new products fail and an overwhelming 90% of companies consider they are too slow in launching new products and services.
The weaknesses of traditional innovation approaches have led some organizations to explore different avenues and seek new inspiration. These organizations have launched innovation centers in major technology hubs with the explicit mandate to accelerate digital innovations. These innovation centers, comprising teams of people and often physical sites, are established in a global tech hub. The goal is to leverage the ecosystem of startups, venture capitalists, accelerators, vendors, and academic institutions that these hubs provide.
We interviewed leaders of innovation centers and conducted an extensive research study of the 200 largest companies in the world to identify best practices and critical success factors.
Global technology hubs are the preferred destinations for setting up innovation centers. 60% of companies that have set up these centers have a presence in the Silicon Valley but many more hubs are emerging – the top 10 cities in our analysis represent only 33% of total innovation centers. The US had the largest share with 31% of total innovation centers closely followed by Europe at 30% & Asia at 22%. Penetration varies significantly between sectors; manufacturing is a clear leader at 58%, but despite facing increasing pressures from digital disruptions, Financial Services lags at only 28%.
Innovation centers offer a range of benefits. They:
• Accelerate the speed of innovation
• Provide a fresh source of ideas
• Enhance risk-taking ability
• Attract talent
• Drive employee engagement
• Build a culture of innovation.
It is extremely challenging to make a success of innovation centers. The long list of critical success factors is a testimony to the size of the challenge. These factors range from clarity on the role of the innovation center to governance for innovation implementation. For example, innovation centers should not peer so far out into the future that it becomes disconnected from current realities. But, it should not confine itself too closely to the parent’s current operations to make breakthrough innovation impossible.
The advent of thriving technology hubs has created an innovation ecosystem that traditional organizations can tap into. By combining the culture and approach of innovation centers with their budget firepower and access to markets and customers, traditional organizations have an excellent opportunity to re-energize their innovation capability.