Good governance of Intellectual Property positively influences the success of innovation ecosystems

How can an IP-based orchestration model be instrumental in the success of an innovation ecosystem? Vlerick Professor Bart Leten and colleagues developed insights into this issue by studying IMEC, a nano-electronics research institute headquartered in Belgium.

There are a number of good reasons why companies are increasingly organising their innovation activities within ‘innovation ecosystems’. By collaborating and pooling their resources with other companies on a temporary basis, the companies in the ecosystem can achieve joint innovation goals while sharing the associated costs and risks.

Furthermore, in addition to reducing development costs and risks, innovation ecosystems generate value by combining complementary knowledge that enables the partners to address highly complex problems.

Success through the governance of IP

To illustrate the central role of the IP model that an ecosystem orchestrator develops for its partners, the authors examined IMEC, a public research institute that orchestrates innovation ecosystems around specific nano-electronics technologies. Through multi-party research collaborations in Industrial Affiliation Programs (IAPs), IMEC brings together firms that hold different positions in the semiconductor value chain.

The governance of IP positively influences the success of innovation ecosystems, as it determines the value appropriation potential for all of the ecosystem partners.

Meeting needs and acknowledging contributions

In industries with a high need to reduce R&D costs and risks, the innovation ecosystem orchestrator can stimulate the progress and success of its ecosystem by investing in a strong IP base within its field of expertise and sharing this knowledge with its partners.

By giving its partners maximal access to (or co-ownership of) the IP created within the innovation ecosystem, the orchestrator enables all of the partners to reap the full benefits of the joint research while each of them conducts, and pays for, only part of it. Furthermore, a good IP-based orchestration model leaves room for customisation. This can be done by offering the partners the opportunity to conduct proprietary joint research with the orchestrator in parallel with the ecosystem.

A successful IP-based orchestration model hinges on two major premises: the needs and contributions of the partners.

  • The orchestrator can make sure that partner-specific needs are taken into account through bilateral agreements that specify the scope of IP access for each partner.
  • And by granting partners co-ownership of the IP they contribute to the ecosystem, the orchestrator acknowledges their contributions.

Innovation ecosystem orchestrators can prolong their leading role in ecosystems by maintaining a learning organisation that is oriented towards building up crucial new technological expertise, which can be used to initiate new innovation ecosystems, and by searching for new ways to apply successful orchestration models.

Source: 'Managing Innovation Ecosystems through IP-Based Orchestration Models: IMEC, a Public Research Institute in Nano-Electronics' by Bart Leten (Vlerick Business School and KU Leuven), Wim Vanhaverbeke (Hasselt University), Nadine Roijakkers (Hasselt University), André Clerix (IMEC) and Johan Vanhelleputte (IMEC). Published in California Management Review – Special issue on IP management: In search of new practices, strategies and business models, vol. 55(4), pages 51-64, 2013.

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