The European Union's Economy and Employment Growth is directly linked to the shift to an innovation and knowledge-based economy. Modern innovation processes require much faster reaction than ever before - organizations require the skilled labour to face the challenges of modern innovation-driven economies. It also creates certain challenges for universities who need to increase collaboration between each other as well as with other industry players in order to provide the market with the skilled graduates answering modern requirements.
The term 'open innovation' has various commonly accepted definitions, which are all subject to continuous change. It can defined as "...the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively". The endgame of this new paradigm is to create economic growth by utilizing internal and external ideas and internal and external paths to market. To achieve this goal, new capabilities are needed to manage internal and external knowledge in open innovation processes. It has been recognized that the large, vertically integrated R&D laboratory systems of the 20th century are giving way to more vertically disintegrated networks of innovation that connect numerous companies into ecosystems.
Open innovation has been recognized as one of the most important factors in societal development and the future for European competitiveness. It accelerates the exchange of knowledge and technology among European Union Regions, creating new business opportunities on traditional and new emergent sectors, responding to the EU's new societal and community needs. Ultimately, such strategies lead to increases on quality of life, living conditions and employment rates. This new innovation paradigm based on openness and continuous interaction and collaboration among different actors within innovation ecosystem and platforms (be it suppliers, users, customers, universities, research institutes or even competitors) is on the top priority for Europe. Despite its obvious advantages, open innovation is not spread along among European curricula of higher education study programmes, both in terms of country and cycle (bachelor, master, PhD) distribution. According to the latest reports of European Commission regarding open innovation, the existing seventh framework programmes and the future Horizon 2020 programme are key supporting mechanisms for open innovation which is crucial for the competitiveness and the future of Europe. There are still many study programmers not including at all this subject, for various reasons: lack of qualified teaching staff, underestimation of its importance, lack of study materials and research due to its relatively fresh introduction. When we take a closer look at this concept - the most researched and discussed innovation management approach in modern business and academia - the education in this field is still lagging behind. So far only a few practitioners' networks (such as ISPIM and Exnovate, actively cooperating with the project coordinator - Lappeenranta University of Technology) have been able to develop and implement related to open innovation training in Europe.
Furthermore, according to the "Open innovation 2012" Report of European Commission, Europe fails to leverage its innovation potential in comparison to the USA or Japan, where the leading universities in the USA, for example, have already noticed the importance of open innovation curricula and are conducting research, publish articles and develop teaching materials around the open innovation concept (e.g. the University of California, Berkeley; Harvard Business School; Stanford University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)). Therefore, to develop the creative and innovative thinking in Europe, the open innovation concept is needed in order to fresh up the innovation management and it has to be integrated more into the European higher education.
The university education on innovation management has not yet widely adopted the teaching of open innovation but it lies at the very foundations, that the success of this approach can be achieved by strengthening the social dimension of higher education, and improving quality and relevance of higher education through cooperation between higher education institutions, labour market and public and private sector. Since the concept is relatively new, no dedicated curricula on open innovation in higher education can be found in European countries. In some cases, optional modules or sub-ECTS units on open innovation are starting to appear (e.g. Spain, Finland, Portugal, Belgium, and UK) but only as a supplementary approach, not as a key driving tool which could empower higher Education students to be directly efficient, and equipped with necessary skills needed in the competitive labour market. The market of higher education level knowledge, skills and competences in open innovation is ready in terms of demand by the SMEs, corporates and public bodies, which do want to move from an externalized coaching mode of open innovation processes towards an integrated one within internal and coopetitive resources.
Therefore, driven by the business and economic demand, OI-Net is designed to promote co-operation in European Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) jointly with European practitioners associations, with companies/socio-economic actors and with research and innovation centres for the benefit of the European economy. This ambitious network of 52 partners is an answer to the call of academia and public and private bodies to enhance the quality of education the field of open innovation or in most countries – to introduce the open innovation to the teaching curricula. Therefore, the consortium contributes in enhancing quality of teaching in higher education, defining and developing a European dimension in open innovation by exchanging methodologies and good practices. The European Academic Network for Open innovation (OI-Net) aims to focus on education, tuning open innovation in higher education systems, and raising the standards in innovation education across Europe. Department of Industrial Engineering and Management of Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) is one of the leading institutes on open innovation research in Europe, which started to transfer its research into Higher Education and training at European and international level. Furthermore, as a first step in exchanging methodologies and facilitating European co-operation, as per this year (2013) it will be one of the first universities in Europe offering summer school programme called "Open innovation Clinic" in collaboration with universities from Germany, Hungary, and Estonia. The course will be targeted to achieve high learning outcomes on subject-related competence - theory and practice of open innovation.
However, since the topic of open innovation is a very important on the European Commission agenda, there is a clear need to develop the open innovation education on much broader scale in order to leverage the use of the results from the research and global innovation management around Europe. The subject is a very important issue on the European Commission agenda, and there is clearly a need to develop the OI education to leverage the use of the results from the research and global innovation management around Europe. This knowledge and up-to-date ideas about innovations can be distributed to students more effectively, from which the European competitiveness will ultimately benefit through more efficient innovation processes in companies and also in public sector.
By tuning open innovation in Higher Education, OI-Net will help to define a joint framework for curricula on Open innovation at European level, as well as clear Terms of Reference (ToR) on how to include open innovation in Higher Education governance and how Higher Education governance can/has to support the implementation of open innovation curricula (in terms of Quality Assurance, inclusion of open innovation curricula into existing or supplementary European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) schemes, clustering of HE experience across Europe in open innovation related fields and multi-disciplinary approaches). OI-Net will also include the room for piloting the implementation of the open innovation curricula and the Terms of Reference in at least 3 HEIs (within different cultural and economic environments), this will enable:
- The validation of the framework and ToR (especially to reinforce Quality Assurance guidance on the topic for HEIs and HE governance).
- Validate and improve the pedagogical process defined at the same time of the framework, as well as capitalizing these pilot results into transferability and adaptability guidelines for the other HEIs to develop across Europe (in terms of teaching approaches, inclusion fully in terms of clear teaching discipline)
- Support the Open Innovation Platform launch and contribution process to further support the community building process and the sustainability model.
- Reinforce HEIs roles and practices.
- Enable integrated approach of HE curricula offers in order to increase marketability and readiness of students for the job market (increase awareness and readiness of SMEs and organization instead of externalized coaching, so that appropriate resources exist internally and can integrate OI into their strategy and processes, and therefore be able to better manage and integrate graduates in OI into their workforces).
- Chesbrough, H., Vanhaverbeke, W. and West, J. 2006. Open innovation – Researching a New Paradigm. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- "Open innovation 2012 Report", European Commission, by DG INFSO/CONNECT http://files.OI-Netvation-platform.eu/policydocs/open_innovation_2012.pdf and "Unlocking the Digital Future through Open innovation, An Intellectual Capital Approach" by DG INFSO/CONNECT
N.B. after the presentation of the proposal to the ERASMUS programme, the European Commission issued a new version of that report for 2013. see "Open Innovation 2.0 Yearbook 2013"