Co-innovation: what you need to know to translate innovation to business

For enterprises, it’s time for co-innovation: ideas, people, technical and financial resources connect to create new services and products in order for all of the partners to benefit. How can you succeed in your co-innovation approach? Edouard Barbier, Principal Banking & Insurance Consultant at Orange Consulting has this advice.

Creating good partnerships to co-innovate is not by accident

There is no trick to finding potential partners: it is necessary to continually take care and expand the network of the company. While it is essential that employees participate in sourcing, the company can also use other levers: investment funds, specialized firms, events, etc.

During the qualification phase of the innovation of businesses – either start-ups or not – the important thing is to measure the business potential of each, without focusing solely on technology.

The ideal target? An ecosystem of hundreds of partners, to evolve based on the needs and strategic orientations of the company.

Orange establishes partnerships and co-innovates with institutional players, various operators and academic participants as well as businesses, from start-ups to larger groups.

The four pitfalls to avoid in any co-innovation project

1. Do not forget to base your co-innovation strategy on your business needs. First, identify the skills available within your company to assess the relevance of a co-innovation approach. This will guide you when searching for partners and convince yourself about your approach internally.

2. Do not integrate intellectual property issues. There are many risks, such as spoliation. It is, therefore, necessary to frame the subject from a legal point of view before an innovation emerges. Having a prospective vision of the gains of innovation makes it possible, among other things, to anticipate the question of the exploitation rights of innovation on the markets and that of the distribution of patent deposits. The goal? Clarify upstream perimeters to work in an environment of shared trust.

3. Do not rely on proven methods. If improvisation can often be creative, putting in place a framework is necessary to innovate in a structured and effective approach. There are suitable frameworks to collaborate: these include design thinking for the ideation phase and the agile method for piloting experiments. It is also possible to appeal to human sciences in the creative phrase: psychology, anthropology, etc.

4. Do not equip yourself with agile and collaborative tools and equipment. In a co-innovation process, it is just as crucial to quickly share resources and experimental results as equipment, just like a demonstrator to perform tests or a 3D printer in an industrial workshop to quickly build a prototype. In the context of certain projects, working under one roof, that is to say in one and the same place, is the essential key to better collaboration.

Success factors for a co-innovation approach

1. The company must be committed to mobilizing all its forces around its projects of innovation and co-innovation. This approach must be taken by management at the highest level. Without this, it will be very difficult to advance such an approach. The management committee must be fully convinced of its relevance.

2. Implement a communication strategy at all levels of the company to spread the culture of co-innovation and to give employees the opportunity to realize their innovative ideas and stay on the lookout for new partnerships. This includes, for example, the organization of start-up pitches, learning expeditions or participation in events such as VivaTech.

The challenge? For innovation to be perceived as a major objective by all employees, to be creative throughout the value chain.

At VivaTech 2019, a show dedicated to technological innovation, the Orange Group presented more than 150 start-ups. Orange is the only signatory to the French Tech engagement charter, a public initiative to support French start-ups.


3. Quickly carry out experiments: working with trades to identify and test real-life use cases in real situations is fundamental. Experimentation, and therefore co-innovation, can also be done with clients. EDF, Starbucks and Orange – Imagine with Orange platform – have used this type of approach to co-create new offers. The company can then move to the industrial scale, measuring the level of investment required.

4. Rethink collaboration modes with external purchasing partners in order to get out of “customers-suppliers” thinking and into “partnership” thinking. This allows more flexibility and responsiveness in the formalization of collaborations.

Edouard Barbier
Edouard Barbier

Consultant Principal dans le conseil en digital et innovation, spécialisé dans le secteur banques et assurances. Je soutiens la transformation digitale et l'innovation de mes clients en France et à l'étranger. J’ai développé des compétences dans les domaines suivants : mise en place de démarches innovantes, Design Thinking, consumer-centric design et pratiques Lean Startup.