Dr Claire Brophy, Design Robotics research fellow, presented a research paper on how design methods were employed to map the ARM Hub ecosystem at the World Open Innovation Congress (WOIC) in Rome in December 2019. Open Innovation is a way of thinking about and managing innovation where firms purposely manage their approach to innovation by bringing in innovations from outside their business and also allowing innovations from inside their business to be developed further by others.
Tell us about what WOIC is about. What were you doing out there?
Claire: This was the 6th annual World Open Innovation Conference. It’s an annual event that brings together representatives from industry and academia to focus on the emerging field of open innovation. The attendees were predominantly from Business and Management backgrounds. My presentation was about the ARM Hub – (the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Hub) and a design workshop we conducted to visualise what the ARM Hub could be, and who it would represent. The workshop used participatory design approaches, so really tangible, creative ways to explore the abstract concept of open innovation. At the conference, it was perhaps the only one that took this kind of approach to the concept of open innovation.
Given that you presented design approaches, how do you think it was received in this business-academic setting?
Claire: I was nervous about presenting to an entirely new field, but it was actually really well received. One of the conference chairs thanked me later for “bringing the joy” to our session. It felt great to bring design in approaches and invigorate the conversation around open innovation. After the session, a lot of the attendees agreed that taking this tangible approach levelled the playing field and was a creative, engaging way to approach unfamiliar concepts. Educators in particular, shared their own experiences about how they are trying to incorporate engaging methods like this into their teaching.
Do you have any favourite sessions?
Claire: Yes, so many good ones. The one by Francesco Starace, CEO of Enel, the Italian utilities provider He spoke at length about the way he introduced open innovation approaches in this massive, traditional Italian company and the challenges that he had around that. They tried out different creative approaches such as encouraging staff to share their failures in order to change the culture around “don’t come to me with problems only come to me with solutions”. And he also talked about the way they are finding transformative and innovative ways to adapt and retrofit advanced technologies to old machines. He talked about “listening to the machines” which struck a chord with me within regards to my work in Design Robotics. He explained how traditionally technicians would be able to “hear” that the machines are having problems; that there is a language in the sounds of the machines. His story was really interesting around that kind of successful approach to innovation.
Another one was from notable Professor Anita McGahan of University of Toronto. The broader theme around the conference was around how to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. She gave this impassioned call-to-action at the end of her keynote. That we cannot possibly carry on the way that we are carrying on and we need widespread dramatic changes of perspective. Her talk resonated with me for quite some time after the conference.
Professor Henry Chesbrough (he coined “open innovation”) had an interesting wrap-up. He spoke wanting to open up the conversation between industry and academia to better facilitate this flow of knowledge from academia into industry. He shared that the main feedback that had received over the conference was that this relationship between academia and industry is underdeveloped. It is important to bridge this gap. I feel that design – and the work the Design Robotics team is doing in our partnership between academia (QUT/RMIT) and industry (UAP) is a great example of this.
Do you plan to head to WOIC in 2020? What do you think you would do?
Claire: Yes, it would be great to go back. It was a really nice opportunity to present our work to a global audience and introduce the creative open innovation approach we are taking. I think for next time, it would be good to run our work as a workshop at the conference. I’ll be bringing joy back!
Conference Name: World Open Innovation Conference 2019
Date: 12-13 December 2019
Location: Luiss University, Rome, Italy