Partnerships with Flanders Make: excellent examples of open innovation

Partnerships with Flanders Make: excellent examples of open innovation

In the beginning of the 20th century, vertically integrated companies were standard. Companies wanted to control the entire chain, kept their innovations in-house and hardly made attempts to integrate information from beyond their own R&D departments into their own processes. As from the 1920’s, the focus was on closed innovation, resulting in large corporate research and development centres such as Bell Labs (AT&T and Western Electric) or NatLab (Philips). In these centres, researchers could set to work in a non-academic environment and with almost unlimited budgets. This has led to numerous innovative technologies because these centres not only performed industrial but also fundamental research. In this way, these companies were also able to create their own patents, making them independent from patents of third parties. This enabled them to easily market and fully exploit their innovations. However, in a ‘closed innovation’ environment, the knowledge of a company fully depends on the strength of its R&D department. In a society in which knowledge is shared increasingly easily, the idea of closed innovation is gradually being set aside in favour of an open innovation culture. For companies, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do and keep everything in-house, particularly considering the huge increase of knowledge, which is also being developed at an ever faster pace.

Open innovation means that companies no longer solely trust on their own research but combine both internal and external sources. This open innovation model is above all more efficient, faster and more successful in the pre-competition phase in which companies jointly develop new product ideas and concepts.

The research structure of Flanders Make has been tailored to this idea. Through research networks (so-called “clusters”), we build a bridge between academic/fundamental research and industry and create partnerships in which all parties involved benefit from each other's strengths.

Cluster participation within Flanders Make

The open innovation network of Flanders Make is situated around four clusters:

  • Motion Products: moving parts in moving machinery or vehicles.
  • Flexible Assembly: solutions for flexible assembly at the cost of batch production.
  • Design & Optimisation: computer optimisation of designs in view of creating product variants and product families.
  • Decision & Control: adding intelligence to physical systems, for instance through artificial intelligence.

At this moment, more than 80 companies, both SMEs and multinationals, are member of one of these 4 clusters.

By joining a cluster, your company will:

  • Join the discussions on the challenges of a specific topic and on the defining of new research projects;
  • get the opportunity to help define the contours of the research projects and, as such, co-steer Flanders Make’s research roadmap;
  • be able to benefit from the knowledge of other cluster members as we encourage a close cooperation between all cluster members.

What about intellectual property?

Intellectual property is the umbrella term for a number of rights that have been established in national and international laws. This term includes, amongst others, patent rights, copyrights, database rights, etc.

It is generally assumed that a good protection of intellectual property encourages cooperation and creativity as you will then be able to share your ideas with confidence because others cannot just start using them. A good protection of intellectual property is a precondition for open innovation.

But how does this work within Flanders Make? Within a research project, the intellectual property of generic technologies stays with Flanders Make. This ensures that this knowledge is preserved and can be used by many companies. The development of a particular product or application by a company, on the other, becomes property of the company in question so that the latter can protect its market.

More information?

Would you like to know more about cluster participation and how you can make use of it at Flanders Make? Then don't hesitate to contact us. We will gladly explain how we work.

Marc Engels, COO

Marc Engels is Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Flanders Make. Marc has extensive experience in research in collaboration with industry (KU Leuven, Stanford University, IMEC, LoraNet, FMTC, Flanders Make). He has an engineering degree and a PhD from KU Leuven.