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Open Innovation: the virtuous collaboration between companies, universities and startups

In the processes of conceiving and applying technological transformations, partnerships between universities and the business world have proved to be indispensable says Giorgio Scarpelli, Senior VP, Chief Technology & Innovation Officer at NTT Data Italy

01 February 2021 • 3 min read

Unpreparedness in the face of a technological revolution has often proved fatal for many companies: loss of competitiveness, market share, customers and vision are the classic indicators of a lack of innovation. NTT DATA’s role is to govern new scenarios, transform possible crises into opportunities and study the most suitable technology for customers, depending on their sector and business type. The Japanese matrix of NTT DATA always combines economic growth with the desire to restore to society the harmony it deserves through technology. It pursues a model of sustainable development, at the centre of which it places the human being.

During these years, NTT DATA has developed a Transform to Innovation programme, divided into four phases:

  1. Identification of a business or service technological trend

  2. Experimentation of possible solutions in shared laboratories with strategic partners to identify their potential

  3. Development of models based on the data collected to understand the scope and sector of application of potential technologies

  4. Realisation of ideas with the achievement of the expected benefits for the company, respecting social and environmental sustainability

The main difficulty of a company interested in experimenting with new technologies is understanding that everyone must be on board: not only the exquisitely technical structures but also the legal offices, the commercial sector and so on. Every single employee must feel part of this change.

Innovation succeeds best when conceived within a logic of open collaboration and sharing of knowledge, ideas and resources.

Leaving the comfort zone is neither obvious nor simple. For this reason, changes can be introduced in different ways depending on the moment and the company demand: in an emergency situation, drastic measures are urgently needed, structured according to the Japanese concept of Kaikaku. A sudden revolution, therefore, which leads the staff and the company structure to the maturation of a new awareness. In other cases, softer approaches are envisaged, in which changes are introduced gradually.

In the processes of conceiving and applying technological transformations, partnerships with universities and the business world have proved to be fundamental. Innovation succeeds best when conceived within a logic of open collaboration and sharing of knowledge, ideas and resources. The academic ecosystem is often capable of translating innovation proposals into concrete expressions; startups channel the energy, creativity and passion of many young people by offering solutions that meet the needs of customers. Turning to startups means drawing on an ever-growing wealth of solutions and ideas that are integrated into the offer portfolio.

This is why, in a logic of open innovation, NTT DATA has decided to support, promote and accompany startups in their growth process, pursuing a very simple idea: creation from a beneficial ecosystem, a bridge between startups and large corporations. This system is powered by NTT DATA Discovery, a web platform that allows you to manage the creation of a database of startups, currently about 600, looking for promotion, funds and challenges. The database is highly qualified by virtue of the selection of registration questions. The founders are interviewed, the documentation and ideas of the startups in question are examined by expert analysts, and the company itself is evaluated according to a scoring criterion.

Another service offered allows you to search the database for the most suitable startup for the needs of companies and potential investors. NTT DATA Discovery is able to understand the questions expressed in natural language that aim to identify the young company, therefore the solution sought.

Another service is the management of challenges: a problem, or a challenge that can emerge from an internal evaluation or from a customer proposal as a business need. The registered startups can take action to find a solution to solve the challenge in question, thus combining their potential with the demand raised by the market.

These services are part of a ten-year socio-economic transformation plan, which on the basis of new technological paradigms aims to place innovation at the service of man, through increasingly transparent interfaces. The challenge that NTT DATA faces is to devise new technologies and apply them to a series of problems that represent the limit of today’s capabilities, aiming at a harmonious growth of the business and of the whole society, respecting the environment and for the wellbeing of each individual.

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