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Cross-industry Innovation

Cross-industry Innovation: Don’t just think outside the box – look outside the box

Too many businesses retain a silo mentality and fail to look beyond their sector for answers and inspiration for much-needed solutions.

There is a desire to plough on and believe that the answer will come in a lightbulb moment, yet the solution is already out there.

If you are one of those companies that stoically ploughs on, then it’s time to consider looking outside of your business and sector and explore the processes, design and technologies being used in other industries that could make an incredible impact on your own R&D, products or services.

Cross-industry innovation is on the rise and it isn’t so much as a trend, but the way businesses are going to evolve and also a way to enhance what you already do. It is a way of finding the knowledge you don’t have, meeting large challenges and ultimately, picking the brains of someone else who can offer a fresh view.

There are some excellent examples where businesses have found ideas from outside their bubble to enhance their own products.

BMW took inspiration from video game controllers to design its controls for the iDrive; sushi restaurants have adapted the airport baggage carousel idea to move its food, while a Dutch bike company reduced returns from damaged bikes caused in transit simply by putting a TV screen on its packaging – after thinking how to stop them being thrown around.

Cross-industry innovation can take many forms, from the simplistic, such as the Dutch bike company example, to enhancements in health and the industrial sectors of advanced manufacturing, engineering and construction.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) both actively promote cross-industry innovation, while the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme has committed to €30 billion of funding between 2018-20, and €80b since 2014, for a wide range of projects – many finding solutions via collaboration from other sectors.

Cross-industry innovation has the advantage that someone, somewhere already has the answer to the challenge or solution your business is wrestling with.

In his blog for Innovate UK, Cross-sector collaboration is essential to solving innovation problems, David Hytch, Lead Technologist for Offshore Renewables, discussed the merits of a challenge translation workshop for the Offshore Wind Innovation Exchange (OWiX) programme. The purpose of the workshop was to introduce new businesses to the offshore wind supply chain by linking innovative solution providers, from outside the sector, to solve offshore wind challenges.

One of the interesting facts in the blog, is pointing out a study done by Genrich Altschuller, in which he identified five levels of innovation.

  • 32% of inventions related to development of knowledge within an organisation
  • 45% related to new knowledge to an industry
  • 18% related to fundamental changes within industries
  • 4% related to new technologies or development of technology
  • Only 1% of invention was related to new science

The main conclusion from this being that there is a 99% chance that someone, somewhere actually does have a solution to your problem.

So, how do you get cross-industry innovation into your business?

The answer comes from one of the leading experts in the field is Ramon Vullings, author of Not Invented Here.

Vullings is an evangelist when it comes to cross-industry innovation as he talks about utilising ‘disruptive technologies’ and looking for ‘positive alternatives’.

As an IdeaDJ, he advises business on how to do this. His three key points on cross-industry innovation are:

  • Your best ideas come from outside – so step out of your zone
  • You need to create cool combinations – not just any
  • Don’t copy paste – copy, adapt and paste. Personalise for your business

In his TEDx talk (on his website), Vullings expands further on these three points.

Furthermore, the cross-industry collaboration website also has a range of tools than can enable businesses to begin their journey and become advocates and beneficiaries of cross-industry innovation.

We actively promote cross-industry innovation at The Base and collaboration as a way to enhance your business. Talk to us and maybe we can point you in the direction of a business that might just have the answer you need.



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