As I write this article, I’m in boot camp! I am attending the National Science Foundation’s annual IUCRC (Industry University Cooperative Research Center) meeting and it’s orientation session for new, “planning grantees.” I came here to learn as much as possible about this unique program in order that CIMS might qualify as the lead site of a new, multi-institution research center dedicated to advancing the management of technology and innovation.
As I reported to you at the Fall 2009 Sponsors Meeting, we intend to link with and combine the research activities of prominent, industry-facing business schools across the United States. These institutions share the CIMS approach of having companies — with real business needs — set the research agenda. We will call this set of institutions, and the industry members they serve, the Open Innovation Management Network (OIMN).
CIMS Members To Gain From New Support Model
The OIMN’s overarching purpose is to help companies increase their competitiveness by providing them with solutions to their most pressing innovation management problems. While CIMS has been successful as a stand-alone research center for 25 years, the challenges associated with today’s hypercompetitive global economy call for a different CIMS model. The new model must be responsive to more companies, generate more ideas, and address different types of innovation. In the past, CIMS members were most concerned with technologically-based product and process innovation. Today, companies are forced to pay equal attention to, and be proficient in, services and business model innovation.
Like the open, collaborative business model CIMS advocates for its members, CIMS must reform itself into a regionally-aligned, “hub and spoke” model to better serve its constituents.The OIMN will take advantage of the social networks that naturally exist between companies and academic institutions in a particular geographic region (i.e., the OIMN spoke institutions).
From our experience in serving industry, we know that companies are more apt to join a research consortium and participate in its program if they are familiar with the faculty and students of a particular academic institution. And, by pooling the resources (membership dues) of the various regional spokes of the OIMN, many more research projects can be accomplished than if each spoke institution operated independently.
First Spoke in the Network
Joining me in the boot camp is Professor Deborah Dougherty, of the Management and Global Business Department at Rutgers Business School (RBS). While other spokes are contemplated, RBS offers a perfect complement to NC State University and is a capable partner with which to build this new collaboration.
Founded in 1929, RBS has been accredited since 1941 by the AACSB International (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), a distinction that represents the hallmark of excellence in management education. Recognized as one of the top three business schools in the greater New York metropolitan area, RBS is ranked No. 6 nationwide for “Most Competitive Students” by The Princeton Review. Today, RBS is educating more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students at two main campuses in New Jersey as well as six satellite locations in New Jersey, China and Singapore (For more information, see the RBS website http://www.business.rutgers.edu/.)
Like NC State University, RBS employs a multidisciplinary approach with other colleges and departments to deliver the “Business, Science, and Technology” credentials demanded by global corporations. RBS is home to the Technology Management Research Center and has been ranked in the top 5 of schools based on number of technology/innovation management publications. RBS faculty and doctoral students like Prof. George Farris, CIMS Academic Fellow, have published extensively on management of innovation.
Together with RBS Dean Michael Cooper, Deborah intends to start visiting and soliciting support from businesses in the New York City metropolitan area. After meeting with these companies, she and the dean will decide their site’s specific research focus. (Each spoke in the network will have a research focus, or domain. Because all research project findings will be shared across the network, industry members will be able to investigate many more topics.)
CIMS Will Jumpstart OIMN
To facilitate the development and growth of the spoke institutions, CIMS, as the “hub” of the OIMN, will provide all spokes with a set of common support services:
• A competency model for managing innovation. The cornerstone of the CIMS approach is its Innovation Management (IM) Framework. CIMS developed this construct to help make complex, interrelated challenges easy to visualize and understand. The IM Framework takes the mystery out of innovation management by breaking it down into elements that can be learned, practiced, measured, and ultimately improved. It is designed to help manage all business functions, at all points along the value chain, not just the R&D division.
• A secure and easily searchable on-line archive of all research articles, book chapters, working papers on the CIMS website, including immediate access to all of the studies CIMS has undertaken in its 25-year history.
• Proven innovation management assessment tools, like the Innovation Management Maturity Assessment and the Value innovation Quotient. Based on CIMS research, these novel tools are invaluable for opening a dialogue with companies about their innovation challenges. (To better understand the rich array of CIMS assessments, please visit the CIMS website and see http://cims.ncsu.edu/index.php/assessments.)
• Participation in CIMS semi-annual Sponsors Meetings. These meetings run for three days and include workshops, presentations, panel discussions, reports on research, and perhaps most important, a venue for “networking.”
• Digital delivery of the CIMS newsletter three times a year. Here both spoke and hub institutions can publish and broadly disseminate articles of importance to their members. (You’ll find both current and back issues of the Technology Management Report on the CIMS website at http://cims.ncsu.edu/index.php/newsletters.)
The intent is to provide spoke institutions with a working “center infrastructure” for engaging quickly with industry. This will save each spoke a considerable amount of time and operating expenses — allowing more money to be applied to research.
Being Part of NSF IUCRC Program Makes Sense
While the NSF may be better known to some of you for its support of basic research, its IUCRC program is uniquely focused on “translational” research — in other words, research that investigates the specific skills, activities, decisions, and culture needed to “translate” ideas (often about new technologies) into commercially successful products, processes and services. CIMS members will recognize this as crossing the Valley of Death, i.e. spanning the chasm that existsbetween research scientists and their industry counterparts.
This is exactly where CIMS has operated. And now with assistance from the NSF we will be able to extend the field of translational research with inputs from other respected business schools and their industry members.
Furthermore, becoming an IUCRC opens the door to more research funding opportunities.
Special programs have been designed, like the IIP (Industry Inspired Research Program) that fosters collaboration with industry researchers. Most important, we will be able to team up with other IUCRCs on multidisciplinary projects under CORBI (Collaborative Opportunity for Research Between other IUCRC’s). For more information about the NSF IUCRC program, its current centers, and the wide array of research opportunities it offers these institutions, please go to http://www.nsf.gov/eng/iip/iucrc/about.jsp.
All of this adds up to great degree of leverage for OIMN industry members. There is simply no way a company can get this type of return on its research dollars by relying solely on its internal R&D organization. Besides, many of these R&D organizations are not skilled in the management sciences of innovation and entrepreneurship. The OIMN should have a Great ROI!
I promise to use this Director’s Column and the CIMS website to keep you informed of our progress. If you are an institution like NC State or Rutgers, or you know of business school like ours, please contact me. At present, there are no limits on the number of spokes or NSF money available to seed their development. The only real requirement is that the school be willing to engage with industry and do research projects that these companies find valuable to their continued growth and competitiveness.
In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to email any questions to me at Paul_Mugge@ncsu.edu