It seems that open innovation, or open source innovation, or open sourcing, depending on who you ask, is really catching on in the biotech industry. The idea is that instead of attempting to develop all ideas in-house, people are appointed with job titles such as Head of Open Innovation whose job it is to attract innovative proposals from third-parties who can answer your questions and solve your problems for you. A bit like crowd-sourcing, but a bit more organised and structured.
A recent Bloomberg article says that the concept is beginning to make it mainstream across all sectors, but we've already seen it making more than a little bit of an impact in biotech and related industries. GSK, Unilever and Mars have people leading Open Innovation teams, and the Pistoia Alliance is a great example of several companies working together to encourage people to come up with novel pre-competitive solutions.
Whether companies choose to take the softly-softly approach and declare that they will accept expressions of interest or speculative proposals through official channels, or whether they go to the effort of providing a very specific list of the exact sorts of things they want, like General Mills does, the end result is that their declaration of interest in open innovation gives them the chance to talk to people who might never have known how to approach them otherwise. This could turn up some really valuable gems of new technology.
At Eagle we are big fans of open innovation. Not only does it mean that our exposure is increased due to the improved access to the right people at our potential customers, but it also means that when we set up projects we find that customers are much more collaborative, flexible, and willing to work together. Open source software, in its genuine technical sense, benefits greatly from developers and users contributing improvements to the wider community. Open innovation cannot fail to do the same for R&D in general.