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Prof. Dr. Elias Carayannis of George Washington University visits the Leading-Edge Cluster

26 June 2019 - it's OWL - an innovation ecosystem?

What is an innovation ecosystem? And how do such systems create new knowledge, new ideas, innovative products and business opportunities? These were the questions that it's OWL and Prof. Elias Carayannis from George Washington University addressed in a joint workshop. Prof. Carayannis is regarded as an expert on the topics of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship and was able to give the participants an exciting insight into American innovation ecosystems.

In order to develop innovations, many companies still take a classic approach: Product development is carried out in the strictest confidence in order to retain the greatest possible advantage over market competitors. But due to digitalisation and the new possibilities of communication, this path is now too slow. Innovations can no longer be operated successfully in this way. In order to continue to be successful and, if possible, to emerge as winners from digitisation, new paths are necessary. One promising approach is the design and establishment of innovation ecosystems. Thus, according to the thesis, the innovation potential of digitisation can be better and more successfully exploited. It' s OWL together with Fraunhofer IEM organised a workshop on this topic with Prof. Elias Carayannis for interested members of the Leading-Edge Cluster.

Innovation ecosystems as drivers for the future

The American Professor Carayannis is one of the most internationally renowned experts in the field of innovation ecosystems. He has been director of research on science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, European Union Research Center (EURC) since 1999 as well as co-founder and co-director of the Global and Entrepreneurial Finance Research Institute (GEFRI) since 2004 at the School of Business of the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Carayannis became known through his publication in which he described innovation ecosystems as quadruple or quintuple helix. At the beginning of the workshop he vividly presented this theory.

The actors of innovation ecosystems interact like a DNA double helix - everyone is connected to everyone and numerous combinations of exchange are possible. The difference here is that there are more actors involved - therefore quadruple (= fourfold) or quintuple (= fivefold). According to Carayannis, the actors who must work together in a successful innovation ecosystem are government, research, industry, (civil) society and the environment. Only if all participants are equally involved groundbreaking and sustainable innovations can emerge and establish themselves.

"A functioning innovation ecosystem must have the following characteristics: It must be fractal - i.e. structured in a variety of ways -, multi-modal, multi-nodal - i.e. well networked - and multi-lateral - i.e. branched out in many ways," says Carayannis.

Innovation ecosystem in practice

The big challenge is to get the practical implementation - from the theory into practice. "This is why I find the it's OWL Leading-Edge Cluster very interesting," said Carayannis. "I heard about it's OWL for the first time in 2017. At a technology transfer conference in Washington D.C., members of the cluster were present, and we got talking. After that we stayed in touch and I was more and more convinced by the quality of the cluster, its members and partners. That's why I gladly accepted the invitation." For Carayannis, it's OWL is a good example of how innovation ecosystems are country-independent. They can and should be created anywhere in the world. The next stage of networking would then be cooperation between international innovation ecosystems.

it's OWL Managing Director Prof. Roman Dumitrescu is also pleased that the contact was intensified by the workshop: "At it's OWL, we are already well on the way to producing innovations through networking. But in recent years we have focused very much on the production side. However, we have to focus on the entire innovation process - on new business models. The suggestions from Elias Carayannis' research are particularly interesting for us. It is now time for us to take the it's OWL Leading-Edge Cluster to a new level." Everyone involved agreed: the most difficult thing is not to find a new business model, but to implement it. The acceptance of the entire company and above all of its employees is the decisive factor for sustainable and successful innovations. That's why it's OWL is also focusing strongly on technology transfer in the current funding phase. Reseach results from the innovation projects is made available transparently to all cluster members. With a transfer voucher, they can tackle their own specific questions as unbureaucratically as possible. The technology network offers them exchange and advice.

Exchange during workshops

Following the input of Prof. Carayannis, the participants met for workshops. Together, they worked out questions and solutions to current challenges in the area of Industrie 4.0 - entirely in the spirit of an innovation ecosystem.

For example, some groups were working on the new it's OWL project KI Marktplatz (AI Marketplace). The project idea was selected as one of 35 out of more than 130 applications for the innovation competition 'Artificial Intelligence as a driver for economically relevant ecosystems' of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). The aim is to use artificial intelligence (AI) for product development and to provide companies with solutions on a virtual marketplace. Project partners are Fraunhofer IEM, the Heinz-Nixdorf Institute, the Institute for Industrial Information Technology inIT in Lemgo and the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology CITEC in Bielefeld. The partners will receive EUR 400,000 in funding for the elaboration of the concept. A jury will decide on the implementation in late summer. In this context, the workshop participants discussed what such a marketplace could look like, which requirements it should meet, and which partners should be involved. Participants both from industry and research have brought together very different approaches and requirements, which help to implement the project as successfully and user-oriented as possible.