Editos

November 2017, « Innovation and mobilization in the face of climate change », by Jean Marc TOUZARD*

Increasingly intense cyclones in the Caribbean, drought and fires in southern France, dramatic monsoon in India … The latest news keeps reminding us that climate change is here and that it carries increasing risks to our society. But there is no fate, for we are at the origin of this upheaval! We can therefore avoid the worst by changing our ways of producing, moving and consuming in order to drastically limit our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to future climate impacts. This is the direction taken by the voluntary commitments of the States at the COP21 in 2015, in Paris, where ambitious targets to reduce GHG emissions have been decided, combined with a strong impulse to the development of solutions and innovations for a low carbon economy. Donald Trump’s irresponsibility and madness certainly threaten the political process at a global level, but his position can not last, as he is internationally isolated and challenged in the USA by a majority of cities, states, associations, media and public figures. The mobilization and innovation movement to deal with climate change may be delayed, but it will no longer be stopped. Initiatives are increasing everywhere, carried out by companies, researchers, communities and citizens. They primarily concern the sectors of energy, agriculture, transport and construction, but also all industrial and service activities, as well as our consumer and user behavior. It is a new development model that is being built by trial and error. It is accompanied by crises and debates on its technological and social orientations, and driven by power stakes and economic competition. The climate and energy transition that is underway must also include key issues such as social inequalities or the drastic reduction of biodiversity, accentuated by climate change. This is an important challenge for all, and in particular for scientists who study and support the innovations that transform our economies and our societies. It is in this perspective that the RNI and the journal issues Innovations – Revue d’Economie et de Gestion d’Innovation (n°54) and Journal of Innovation Economics & Management (n°24) -, which have just been published in September 2017, are expected to contribute, on the eve of a new international climate summit in Bonn, and probably of other climate catastrophes that will remind us of the urgency to mobilize and innovate.

* UMR Innovation, Montpellier

October 2017, « Science, science-fiction and innovation », by Thomas MICHAUD*

Imagination is a key element of innovation in techno-scientific societies. The debate about the prophetic function of science fiction is discussed in this book. The histories of techno-sciences and science fiction are closely interconnected to which point that some sectors – like the space industry or the ICT – openly accept their interest for this kind of imagination. However, this imagination has been morally condemned by the greatest thinkers and philosophers. Science fiction is known for its descriptions of the future. Innovating means creating the future. It is why several organizations are interested by this imaginary.

The first part of this book presents a short history of science fiction, with a specific interest on utopic technologies. Authors like Mary Shelley, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Albert Robida, Hugo Gernsback, or writers of hard science fiction, cyberpunk or biopunk are presented to evaluate what is the function of their fictions on actors at different stages of the innovation process.

The fact that organizations make use of science fiction is becoming more and more familiar to the extent that the issue of the legal value of utopic technologies has been arisen. Should we implement a patent system to protect them and ensure that artists who have predicted innovative technological processes are paid?

Several examples of the use of science fiction by different organizations are presented. Design fiction and Science fiction prototyping use the technological imagination to innovate. Microsoft, Orange, Chinese programs, but also the ESA, the NASA, and multiple think tanks realize the interest to stimulate creativity with science fiction. This book is an occasion to present the imaginary of several sectors, like converging technologies, robotics, the space industry (the conquest of Mars for example), and to ask the question of the ideological function of an imaginary that is increasingly influencial on business, and scientific discoveries. Science fiction is often mentioned in the most ambitious scientific projects. Marsism, for example is a neologism created to describe the ideology of the colonization of Mars. It is particularly influenced by science fiction movies and novels.

To what extent does science fiction act as the discursive matrix of innovation? Is it a danger for the society, and is it necessary to control it so to avoid dangerous discoveries? A method to filter imagination in organizations to optimize its strategic virtues is presented in the first part. The theory of the impact of technological fictions on innovation is inspired by authors like Gaston Bachelard, Gilbert Durand and Lucien Sfez. The question of the imaginary origin of science is crucial to understand and stimulate R&D policies. Gilbert Durand explains that the symbolic imagination is at the root of scientific discoveries. The theory of archetypes of Jung developed too this initial intuition. From this perspective, the hypothesis of a basic imagination at the root of science is presented. Technological innovations initially appear in a prophetic unconscious. In the face of new living conditions, human gains access to new utopic and archetypal technologies, which are represented as potential technological innovations that encourage scientists and innovators.

Societies and organizations, even the most rational ones, must pay attention to their types of imagination, their religions and their ideologies as these elements justify their social organization. Technological utopianism and science fiction are key elements for innovation in industrial societies. Innovative organizations are challenged by the necessity to develop their science fictional imagination to remain leaders and anticipate new economic cycles. More: http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-178630130X.html

* Expert in innovation management

September 2017, « Economic dominance theory, trade and knowledge flows », by Didier Lebert*

The representation of commercial or knowledge flows in the form of networks and the use of instruments of social networks analysis (SNA) and of graph theory in order to study these networks are becoming more and more widespread in literature on economics. This approach can be summed up by the term « structural analysis. » For example, it is by means of structural analysis that Ricardo Haussmann and his colleagues at the Center for International Development (CID) of the University of Harvard produced their atlas of economic complexity. Such complexity is examined from the point of view of a given country’s « diversification of exports » (the number of commercial partners to whom the country exports) and of the « ubiquity of exported products » (estimated using the number of countries exporting each product; the more readily the product is available internationally, the less specific are the skills and resources needed to provide it). In the end, such complexity determines the potential of a country to promote its international integration, and local public policies should seek to amplify such complexity at the margins of the revealed specializations of countries. While the attention of the researchers of the CID is focused on developing countries, others similarly seek to understand the processes of transition in certain countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), which take place between their departure from a centralized economic system and their integration into the European Union some 15 years later. What is feasible with regard to the flow of goods and services on the national scale, is also possible with regard to the flow of technological knowledge (accessed by means of data on patent citation and location of inventors) on a regional scale.

Thus, structural analysis is useful in the study of the structure of technological specializations and their transformation over time. The « technological resilience of a region » can then be approached in terms of its static and dynamic dimensions, the former pertaining to long-term maintenance of technological specializations despite significant exogenous shocks affecting the region, and the latter – to the ability of a given territory to transform its technological specializations all the while maintaining, or even augmenting, its relative position within the global network. When the main agents of the production of new technologies are included in the diagram, such is due to the interest in their contribution to local transformation. The OECD has recently distributed the COR&DIP database, such that it might be possible to measure these contributions within a network representation of the production of knowledge. The locally observed transformations as a whole lend themselves to being interpreted as a process of transformation of the R&D, which incorporates more and more territories of emerging countries in the most high tech productions. And in the case where one is specifically interested in these new territories of technological excellence, structural analysis allows to identify the series of developments which has led to the emergence of such excellence.

In a more traditional way, and using the same data, structural analysis can be employed for the purpose of producing matrices of technological flows and studying their transformation over time. How did technological innovation occur before? How does it occur now? Processes of innovation change over time, and nowadays studies tend to evaluate their “coherence” with a view to the agents which participate in them (businesses, universities and public research centers, territories). Here, it is the technological organization of the R&D of such entities which lies at the heart of questions (which technologies are linked in order to produce innovation, on the scale of patent portfolios of such entities) posed with a view to identifying the exploratory portion of R&D (i.e., characteristic of such an entity more so than of any other) and that which stems from exploitation (i.e. the “normal” ways of innovating). The arbitration of exploration/exploitation results from strategic choices which gradually call for a transformation of core businesses and territorial specializations.

Lebert and El Younsi (2017) present these questions and instruments (data, SNA, graph theory) in order to assess them, as well as others relating, for instance, to the identification of commercial dominances at the international level, to the trajectories of the integration of African economies into international trade, or even to territorial autonomy in the matter of innovation production: http://iste.co.uk/index.php?p=a&ACTION=View&id=1121

* Unité d’Economie Appliquée, ENSTA ParisTech, University Paris-Saclay, France / Research Network on Innovation

August 2017, « Challenges of ‘agile innovation' », by Laurent Dupont, Laure Morel*

The energy, ecological, digital, economic and social transitions are revolutionizing our industries, institutions and territories. This force us to rethink our practices, knowledge and modes of governance. Furthermore, in the age of globalization and the hyper-increase of digital capacity or artificial intelligence, these changes result in the search and implementation of unprecedented balances. Consciously or unconsciously, public or private, small or big organizations adapt their strategies, business models, projects, and even redefine their role within their technological, economic and social environment (i.e. their ecosystem). These approaches and their context are interdependent and their success is contingent.

The transformation of our society implies, therefore, managing breakthroughs, and new challenges. In other words, on the one hand we must accept a high degree of uncertainty and on the other hand we must develop our capability to be fully aware of the origin, the current skills and the possible future of our organizations. As a result, different needs, visions, ambitions, and beliefs in some cases can interact.

Thus, our environment shows regularly its ability to make appear the unexpected in established order or to provide new answers in critical situations. Novelty may be beneficial or disrupt a comfortable situation. Our degree of acceptance and adoption comes from our willingness to accept changes, to change ourselves or to change our organizations or our environments. Finally, innovation development is the convergence of external (which we benefit from) and internal (which we adopt) agilities.

Thereupon, we define agile innovation as a flexible process transforming individuals, their organization and their environment with three specific challenges:

  • Individuals and their interactions, supported by agile process and tools.

Process and tools should be used to generate symbiosis between Human fulfillment and their ecosystem. Individual expertise need to be connected in order clarify the understandings of major issues and to define common and sustainable solutions.

  • Collaboration between stakeholders, supported by flexible contract negotiation and relations based on trust.

Contract and trust are intertwined; both elements strengthen each other and this association promotes innovation. In the context of uncertainties, contract introduces an operation framework. Trust is generally considered as the belief that the other person has genuine care and concern for us and that it will honor its engagement. Building a shared sense and a thorough understanding of current needs and possible scenarios strengthens trust and helps to adjust the contract.

  • Embodying change, supported by rather than monitoring a plan.

Within organizations, agile innovation encourages people to become more proactive together and co-design shared futures. Individual, organizational and ecosystemic times must be taken into consideration and harmonized.

Debates, Analysis and Perspectives: RNI 2017 Summer School, 28-29th August 2017, « Agile Innovation: Challenges for Individuals, Organizations and Territories? », Nancy, France. For Register: https://rni2017.event.univ-lorraine.fr/?forward-action=index&forward-controller=index&lang=en

* Université de Lorraine, Laboratoire ERPI

July 2017, “Risk: a will for applications!”, by Bernard GUILLON*

If the integration of the risk within the strategies of companies is not new, it remains however a pledge of goodwill which their partners are going « to observe », even to judge, with more attention. Maybe because the environmental effect of the 1990s went through it. Maybe also because to evoke the risk has clearly fewer meaning than to discuss on the risks. Even if we sometimes evoke the « risk » of taking into account too much policies of conservation against the risks! Finally because, as often, the events preceded the formalizations and the human or financial consequences are unfortunately without appeal.

That is why it is necessary to be interested in the « pilots » actions having allowed to be made a first idea of the consequences that economic activities in their functioning (heavy industry, petrochemical companies, agriculture, tourism …) as well as during spectacular accidents since the last quarter of the twentieth century. Whether it is during the launch of a large-scale project, during its realization or during the exploitation of a technical system, during its dismantling or during any decision-making, the risk is omnipresent. The implementation of actions of risk analysis be completed by a managerial reflection on the global approaches to arouse a better understanding of each dimension of risk.

Today, the influence of the works in the fields of operating safety, reliability or security is undeniable. But it should go farther to the reflection in the light of these advances, by adopting a multidisciplinary vision of this field of investigation. The risk is not only technical or technological, because it is bound, among others, to the natural, human, environmental, legal, administrative or economic factors. The perception and the acceptability of the risk thus send back towards multiple facets that it should study.

A demonstration made for example by the French-speaking colloquium on the risk Oriane (born in 2003) that finds its reason for being by the diversity of presented communications proving the interdisciplinary of risks (shown also by the support of 15 associations and scientific networks: A2ID, ADERSE, ADETEM, AFC, AFIRSE section française, AFMAT, AGRH, AIM, AIRMAP, A-RFGI, ATLAS-AFMI, IAS, IP&M, SPSG et GRT Normalisation & GRH), but more still by the realization of 23 collective publications until 2016 (4 collective works and 19 issues or exercise books of « Risque » in scientific journals with peer review process) at the end of the annual publishing of the colloquium Oriane.

Eight articles in the issue 29 of the journal Market and Organizations confirms that the objectives evoked previously and show that the theme of research « Risque » is, by nature, a carrier and that the issue of its facets again is to be discovered: http://www.cairn.info/revue-marche-et-organisations-2017-2.htm

* CREG EA 4580, Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour, guillon@iutbayonne.univ-pau.fr

June 2017, « Innovation Policies and Development », by Vanessa Casadella*

Innovation policies are essential in enhancing innovation processes and disseminating knowledge. In the most restrictive sense, these policies focus on S&T and knowledge creation. But today they are more often understood in a wider dimension incorporating social, educational, learning policies with a dual scope: not only do they contribute to the economic transformation of territories and nations, but they accelerate the various issues carried by the multiple actors of the innovation processes. In this sense, driven by public action, creativity and synergies are built, modeled and developed in the heart of territories, cities, states and dynamic networks.

The two special issues, in French and in English, of Innovations. Revue d’Economie et de Management de l’Innovation (Horizon Développement ! Créativité et Innovation) and of Innovations. Journal of Innovation Economics and Management (Innovation Boosters in Economic Systems) follow this perspective and study the way that public policies improve and contribute to the economic attractiveness of the territories, as well as the strong dimension of business spirit beyond the favorable context that we wish to create for. In this dimension, these issues will mainly have an international dimension, driven by empirical explorations in North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa (Senegal, Cameroon, Maghreb countries) and also in developed economies (Canada) in order to highlight the real issues of innovation policies in the South. Among these issues are those related to economic development. Because there is no development without innovation and innovation without development. The two are part of a mutual self-conditioning, especially in the problems of developing economies where poverty is worsened by striking inequalities.

Using the tool of the National Innovation System, public actors can measure and appreciate the quality of learning networks and consider building capacity for innovation in a perspective of capabilities and economic development as end and means, as Amartya Sen pointed out. Since innovation is a heterogeneous process, often structured in a logic of conflict in the South, the keys to reading these two issues will thus present the structural characteristics and dysfunctions of the various historical, social and cultural systemic trajectories in relation to the conditions of solidification of public action. In Cameroon, for example, the Innovation System takes the form of a project rather than a real object. The improvements in global governance need to be reinforced, as in Senegal, where innovation policies need to be built on competence building and economic development. In Algeria, the National Innovation System seems disarticulated and incomplete due to the immaturity of its various components. Again, bad governance blocks the creation and dissemination of knowledge in the economy. When other authors compare the technological creation between China and African countries, the recommendations are directed towards the fight against corruption and investments in development of human capital. However, other experiences may be more positive: this is the case in Canada, where a business ecosystem is the result of a community of intermediary public and private institutions. No role is given to multinational corporations. The dynamic is presented as a real synergy between key innovation players.

In addition, these issues respond to the changing and diverse nature of innovation policies in a globalized context and highlight the importance of technological advances in building a better inclusive economy particularly in developing countries.

* Université Picardie Jules Verne, CRIISEA, RRI

May 2017, « ‘Castrating’ a capable employee », by Fragiskos GAITIS

responsible for the Development of the Hellenic Food Authority (EFET)’s laboratories and for the organizing of Official Food Safety Controls for microbiological parameters in Greece.

How many times have you said « I can’t stand it anymore »? How many times have you thought of changing working environment in order to retrieve working tranquility and feeling of satisfaction for your work?

Unfortunately, this is a worldwide phenomenon (see article by Dr. Travis Bradberry for Huffington Post*), found both in public and private sector and is highly associated to the management quality of supervisors and/or employers. The vertical (top-bottom) evaluation which does not give the opportunity to lower hierarchy levels of employment, to evaluate their supervisors, perpetuates management failure thus resulting in lower productivity.

So, finally a capable, conscientious, hard working and ambitious employee, is transformed into a tired, indifferent, « castrated » one.

But what are the basic mistakes for such a transformation?

  1. Excessive workload

The correctly distributed work to employees on the one hand highlights their capabilities while on the other hand creates a sense of justice among them. Falling into the trap of assigning work to the « best » or the « fastest » is regarded more as a punishment, rather than as recognition. Ultimately this results to a « burned » employee who is looking for a way out, apparently with a sharp drop in productivity.

  1. No rewarding of the capable employees for their contribution

When there is no reward for continuing efforts, frustration grows and the appetite for improving shrinks. It is wrong to believe that the reward is always just money. Beyond the financial rewards, there are different forms of recognition that can maintain or even increase the performance of a « good » employee. A capable supervisor should know what could create euphoria in his staff.

  1. Poor connection between supervisor and employee

The relationship between supervisor and employee is fully associated with the supervisor’s knowledge of good management practices and of course the temperament of both. Human approach, diplomacy, compliance agreements and logical work assignments, are key points for proper management, while respect for the person in charge is a key point for productivity.

  1. Head under the microscope

In order for comments and suggestions being taken into account, the supervisor should be an example to follow, by means of working performance and overall behavior.

  1. Rewarding the inadequate

The “game” is lost once indifferent or “bad” employees are rewarded in anyway, due to friendship, politics, family relations or other types of relations with the supervisor.

  1. Capable employees are not helped to develop

A skilled manager must not only allow but also highlight the capabilities of its staff, which in the long term will turn to his favor. Failure to respect priorities and timetables and absence of targeting, creates an explosive mixture with guaranteed confusion.

All of the above along with many other of lesser importance, gradually lead a competent employee to a develop the so called “Burn Out Syndrome”, namely a long-term physical, emotional and mental exhaustion experience, caused by excessive and chronic stress due to concerns about the value of his work, gradually impacting on productivity, depriving the energy and good mood that existed before and giving birth to boredom and feelings that there is nothing else to offer. This topic will be discussed during the RNI’s Innovation Day 2017(6/12/2017) focused on the “Innovation at the frontiers of work and no work ». See : https://rrien.univ-littoral.fr/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/innovatin-day-2017.pdf

* How Complaining Rewires Your Brain For Negativity, 12/26/2016.

April 2017, “Agro ecological innovation and development”, by Ludovic Temple*

The convergence of the renewed importance of sustainable development and technological transitions opens a controversy over the economic model mobilized or strengthened. The first model is based on the industrialization of the production function by the standardization of the inputs used to produce agricultural and food products. It is based on the search for the economies of scale, the concentration and specialization of farms and territories. This productivity-efficient model underlies a polarized innovation trajectory by liberating the productive activity of natural and social ecosystem. It reduces the diversity of the latter to a constraint that must be homogenized. A second economic model underlies an agriculture based on more family-friendly production methods. It is based more on the potential of natural and social ecosystems and on the diverse social production structures. These two models converge in the recognition of the inadequacy of the « diffusionist » innovation model based on the concept of invention as result of scientific research and its transfer from laboratory to global agriculture. This convergence can be analyzed by the concept of innovation system. The special issue of Technology and Innovation (https://www.openscience.fr/Innovations-agro-ecologiques-et-Developpement) highlights inter-tropical agriculture in developing countries: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Madagascar; Senegal and on different innovation processes (agro-ecology, biotechnology, bioenergy).

How the co-evolution between the adaptation of innovation models and technological trajectories that ecologize agronomic practices generates different impacts on development? These case studies confirm the increasing integration of inclusive research of stakeholders in the innovation processes. They describe an open collaborative evolution of the innovation models mobilized. The openness of the procedures reveal themselves as a potential explanation of the impacts of research on development. A second condition favourable to these impacts is identified in processes that reduce the labour hardship or enhance the innovation capacity of farmers to self-generate inputs from local resources. The development of innovation and research policies focused on the public good in the light of local societal expectations is a main issue.

* CIRAD UMR Innovation, Montpellier

March 2017, « Continuity and innovation fertility of the contemporary technological system”, by Smaîl Aït-El-Hadj*

An unprecedented innovation current has fertilized the last twenty years, from 1995 to today, creating an era of “convergence”, with renewing substantially products, communication media, production means… and upsetting massively our way of life. Widespread digitization, combined with the development of networks, and notably Internet, is at the heart of this new innovation field, which is accompanied by the creation of new materials that regenerate most of the technical systems and the mastery of the infinitely small and of genetics fulfils the promises of new ways of improving human health. Meanwhile environmental constraints are beginning to impose themselves as a major factor of technological mutation, especially in the key domain of energies. The technological dynamics of the last twenty years is not a new movement born out of nothing; it can be usefully analysed as the second innovation wave of the third technological system having emerged at the end of the 1970s.

What then is a technological system? It is the formalisation of all the technologies of a given period, seen as an interdependent and coherent system. This modelling uses concepts of the technological systemics that appeared in the 1980s, with instruments allowing the analysis of the organisational structure of technology, of its evolution dynamics, and of the transitions in between phases. With these instruments, it is possible to present and characterise historical technological systems, to model their specific dynamics and the transition modalities. Thus, this approach allows us to build the structure and dynamics of what can be considered as the current technological system, coming after the first system based on the English industrial revolution and the second system that we characterised as the mechanical-electrical-chemical system – so named because of its generic technologies – and that has expanded into the gigantic technological transformation that took place from 1880 to 1975.

This analytical tool has allowed the comprehension of the two-stage dynamics of the current technological system, which has explored and exploited over forty years the potentialities of generic technologies, of information, of biotechnologies, of new materials and of renewable energies. It leads to the question of the system limits, faced with the major environmental constraint, and its capacity to regenerate itself in order to cope with it. The alternative could be a new technological revolution with the implementation of a new cluster of generic technologies capable of meeting the constraints and challenges of a technological development in harmony with the environment. This will depend on the resilience of the generic technologies of the current system, and on their capacity to assume this major transition.

* Professeur ITECH

February 2017, “TECHNO-SCIENCES WITHIN SOCIETY: Innovation, standardisation, legitimizations”, by Jean Claude Ruano-Borbalan*

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, an economic and political doctrine established scientific knowledge as the major driver of innovation and growth. This breaks with the post-war vision during which the dominant view among scholars was that science had an unselfish aim, developing knowledge considered as a public good.

This transformation has resulted in the establishment of a new regime with a dominant administration and the production of scientific and techno-scientific knowledge, the main features of which are now well known, but which vary by country.

This produces huge modifications and imposes a redesign of interaction research, innovation, economy, and society. Policy research, university reforms, etc., change in the regulation of knowledge production in the digital age, a mutation in the forms of legitimation and evaluation models, and academic expertise, are essential. Similarly, the analysis of societal liability concerning the impact and uses of techno-sciences, externalities of all kinds in knowledge transfers, and scientific or technology mediation, are essential to think about innovation, which is not only a ”neutral” background for “neutral” economic development processes.

In the French issue of Innovations, historical roots and development of society/techno-sciences relations are strongly examined, mainly processes of standardisation of knowledge and legitimization institutions and discourses of sciences and technology since 19th century. It focuses particularly on education and public understanding of sciences institutions, their role and influence (see: https://www.cairn.info/revue-innovations-2017-1.htm).

The articles in the English issue deal with the question of institutional or political frameworks and the outcomes of innovation doctrines and policies, in the relationship between science, technology and society. The investigation is carried out from various case studies (see: https://www.cairn.info/revue-journal-of-innovation-economics-2017-1.htm).

All the contributions in the issues show that ideologies, organisational cultures, norms and standards, and democracy are crucial to understand the links of science and technology in society… A lot of bias, constraints, and frameworks are essential to understand innovation and current societal or economic transformations. Those special issues demonstrate the necessity not to stay with a macro-level or theoretical approach, but to consider micro-level situations and “local orders”: embedded and situated activities, norms or power struggles and distribution. It plead for multidisciplinary approaches and, to develop research to understand and even promote science and technology versus society interfaces, taking into account the question of major political, societal and economical stakes, what is no longer called: “progress direction”.

* Professor at the French National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts
Chair of Mediation of Technology and Science within Society
Director of the Cnam Techno-science within Society Research Laboratory

January 2017, “The role of open labs in the creative processes of organizations”, by Ignasi Capdevila*

Over the past decade, many new collaborative spaces have emerged, within organizations or launched by independent entrepreneurs. Beyond the diversity of denominations (Fab Labs, Living Labs, hackerspaces / makerspaces, TechShops, coworking spaces), the term open lab defines generically this phenomenon. An open lab refers to “a place and a process carried by various actors, in order to renew the modes of innovation and creativity by the implementation of collaborative and open iterative processes that are physically or virtually materialized” (Mérindol et al., 2016).

Some open labs have been developed by private initiatives of a small group of entrepreneurs (like most coworking spaces) or by a community interested in a specific area (such as hackerspaces). In other cases, open labs have been created in organizations, either in public institutions – such as universities – or in firms. Many companies in France (Air Liquide, Alcatel Lucent, Bouygues, Dassault Systèmes, EDF, PSA, Renault, SEB, SNECMA, SNCF, …) have created an open lab within their walls in an open innovation approach to facilitate the collaboration among their employees, and to contribute to the development of new ideas and prototypes that might potentially result in a commercially exploitable product.

The creation of an open lab might be due to the initiative of the employees (bottom up dynamic) or the managers (top-down dynamic). In all cases, the success of open labs requires a combination of both dynamics: on the one hand, the motivation and the active participation of employees and, on the other, the support of the managers. These initiatives contribute to the implementation of organizational ambidexterity by strengthening exploration, invention and ideation activities, which can potentially lead to the commercial exploitation of the results.

Nevertheless, not only open labs in organizations contribute to the development of the collective creativity in firms. Open labs outside companies often also contribute to the creativity of organizations. In a context of open innovation, companies aim to detect and use the creativity distributed in their local environment to fuel their innovation processes. To do so, many companies collaborate with open labs from their environment to renew their creativity and innovation approaches. For example, open labs in the Paris region such as ICI Montreuil, UsineIO, or Liberté Living Lab collaborate with companies to co-develop new products by mobilizing their experts and members of their spaces.

Open labs allow companies to introduce a new digital culture by promoting the maker spirit in their teams. An interdisciplinary exploratory approach based on rapid prototyping and trial-and-error also improves flexibility and efficiency, and reduces time-to-market. Also, by participating in external maker communities, companies get out of their comfort zone and nurture their creative processes with new ideas and knowledge originating from improbable encounters.

*Associate Professor, PSB Paris School of Business
Mérindol, V., Bouquin, N., Versailles, D. W., Capdevila, I., Aubouin, N., Le Chaffotec, A., Chiovetta, N., Voisin, T. (2016). Le Livre blanc des Open Labs: Quelles pratiques ? Quels changements en France ?, Paris.

 

RNI Editorials