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Ecosystem Building, Innovation Ecosystems

6 Types of Innovation Ecosystems

While the structure of an ecosystem is here for hundreds of years, we are still welcoming and exploring this new version of “Innovation Ecosystems”. 

In the previous post we had a quick review on the roots and fundamentals of a professional ecosystem in general. 

Here, I want us to focus on this pretty new and exciting version of it – using the flat, efficient and smart structure of an ecosystem to push forward innovation

To better explain what are these innovation ecosystems, I decided to first present the 6 main types of organisms that are building innovation.

1. Accelerators

The best way to start explaining what is an innovation ecosystem is to explore the most common type by know, accelerators. 

The accelerator concept was formed in 2001 by a business in Colorado. Then, came the 1st famous accelerator, called YCombinator in 2005 following with 500Startups, Techstars, MassChallenge and many more.

Today we have a wide range of accelerators focused on different industries, different social missions, specific challenges, different stages and more. 

Accelerators can be ignited by:

  • Companies aiming to lead innovation in their field
  • NGO’s aiming to ignite new innovative solution to social issues
  • Cities aiming to boost innovation opportunities
  • Universities aiming to give students practical entrepreneurial skills
  • Alumni organizations aiming to create value for members
  • Individuals aiming to leverage their network or experience for entrepreneurs 

2. Industry Ecosystems

Retail-Tech, Health-Tech, Impact-Tech, Fin-Tech etc.  

Like in any other aspect in life, a group is stronger than each individuals alone. This is exactly why each industry, at it’s right timing and focus, started to build an ecosystem and connect between all the stakeholders inside. 

Industry focused ecosystem can be built by multiple players and don’t usually have one specific owner. Industry ecosystem can be ignited by:

  • An individual who sees a gap in that market and wants to create value by connecting between players
  • A company with an internal motivation to grow this field to increase business opportunities
  • Government organization who sets a goal to boost specific industries for economic growth and positioning

3. Demographic Empowerment Ecosystems 

Women Entrepreneurs, Black Entrepreneurs, Elderly Entrepreneurs etc.

Like in other areas in the business world, also in innovation, diversity and inclusivity is still a work in progress. Yet, as innovation requires unique thinking and problem solving- leaders of innovation highly value and seek diverse human capital.

Such ecosystems are formed in order to promote innovative skills and mindset in under-representative demographics, by leveraging the power of the group. 

Women in entrepreneurship, People of color, different ethnic groups, periphery located societies and other minority groups. Once united into one efficient ecosystem, it allows them to increase exchange of value and boost collaboration opportunities.

Usually these ecosystems are formed thanks to powerful motivated leaders who see this gap and start actively working to change this reality. 

4. Smart City Hubs

Innovation today is recognized and implemented as a driver for economic growth. Cities which understand this correlation are actively working and investing in pushing forward innovation within the city. 

Here, there are three main verticals of innovation:

  1. Urban innovation — how to use technology or innovation to increase satisfaction and wellbeing of citizens, take care of elderly or minorities etc. Basically how to provide better services. 
  2. Management innovation — how to be efficient in the internal management efforts of the city. Achieving higher value with the same resources and municipality representatives. 
  3. Human Capital innovation — how to help citizens increase their (and the cities) GDP by building and creating their own new businesses.  

5. Corporate Internal Innovation

Kodak, IBM, Blackberry, Blockbuster (and many more) taught us the main lesson for having a motivation to build innovation ecosystems within a company — If you want to survive you have to innovate. 

Until recently, a large global corporate was operating on KPI’s. This makes sense. in order to move this huge ship, each employee had their own main KPI’s she/he knows they need to deliver in order to be successful and build reputation in front of management. Without these specific KPI’s, how would the management team know who is doing a good job, who deserves a bonus and who to promote next year?

The problem with this system, is that if everyone is focused on achieving known goals for known products and businesses — no one is focused on long term success or on creating new innovative solutions to stay relevant and thrive in the rapidly changing market. 

So, one by one, each corporate awakes. Usually it will be thanks to a brave “intra-preneur”- an innovative individual (or group) with entrepreneurial characteristics who sees the market changes and opportunities of innovating within the company.

In order to push this initiative, the intra-preneur’s first big mission is to sell this idea to the current stakeholders with decision making powers and lead them towards a more promising future. 

Internal innovation has many forms, here are a few common options:

  • Challenge oriented Hackathons for employees across multiple devisions
  • Building and training a squad of innovators across business units
  • Internal acceleration program
  • Online platform to brainstorm, share ideas and collaborate 

6. Open Innovation

This is the most new and advanced form of business innovation.

Not only does it require a company to understand that if it wants to survive and thrive in the new economy it must be innovative, but it demands it to acknowledge the fact that the next big idea and innovation won’t necessarily come from within the company borders. 

Rather, it should start looking around and tap into the endless amounts of innovation, entrepreneurial human capital, expertise and opportunities floating around the company. 

Open innovation can be implemented in a few ways such as:

  • Scouting for external solutions based on specific business needs
  • Open challenges and calls for application
  • Accelerator or innovation programs
  • Partnership with relevant existing innovation programs 

What next?

This is a super quick review. The mission here is to give you an understanding of what I’ll be referring to from now on, when talking about different elements of an innovation ecosystem. 

If you are an ecosystem leader of any of these organizations (or others), stay tuned to more content on this topic very soon. 

If you are a player (stakeholder) in an ecosystem, you should also find value in understanding the differences and evaluating base on this where is the best place for you to add value. 

If you are anyone else, looking from the side wondering how to jump in, this is the perfect place for you to learn what’s going inside and how to achieve your goal. 

In any of the cases above, I’m looking forward to seeing you all in the next posts of this series about Innovation Ecosystems…