Article provided by Chiara Gandini, Fondazione Lombardia per l’Ambiente

Open Alps is a project aimed at encouraging the adoption of Open Innovation practices among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), by breaking the traditional assumption that “innovation requires control and protection”, and overcoming the difficulties related to the fact that SMEs can belong to different industries and have really different cultures.

Furthermore, there are potential opportunities deriving from social and environmental domains, which are relevant for every social actor (included SMEs), and which may constitute a more fertile ground for an Open Innovation system to be established, as these are non-competitive domains, since they focus on value creation rather than value appropriation.

Key factors considered under this perspective are the Open Innovation paradigm, the Small and Medium Enterprises domain, and Social and Environmental Innovation.

Analyzing different practices which partially include the considered elements, OpenAlps project partner Fondazione Lombardia per l’Ambiente  focused on the fundamental role of the network facilitator, putting in evidence that it could be the appropriate vehicle for promoting Open Innovation, with respect to the following conditions:

  • The facilitator has a long standing relationship based on trust with each member of the network;
  • The facilitator is a third party with regard to the members (not a competitor);
  • The facilitator fosters a progressive degree of autonomy of the network.

Thus, at an initial stage, even leveraging on non-competitive, value creation-oriented issues like society and environment may constitute a suitable initial step for encouraging SMEs toward OI.

Furthermore, the analysis put in evidence that Open Innovation can grow if adequately supported by public institutions, both at national and at regional level. In particular, the implementation of a dedicated platform encouraging knowledge sharing, enhancing debate on crucial issues, and connecting actors working on related fields, can represent an opportunity for accelerating Open Innovation processes and fostering a positive loop. Consequently, the adoption of systematic and interconnected policies from regional and local institution can work as a powerful stimulation of Open Innovation among SMEs, obviously if implemented with the necessary instruments for granting participants the conditions required for a successful knowledge exchange.

If you would like to find out more about “Fostering Open Innovation among SMEs trough Social and Eco Innovation”, you can download the full report here.