Saturday, May 10, 2008

HP's "open innovation" gambit

In March, HP reorganized their labs to re-emphasize "open innovation". At the time, I said “all we can do is wait and see.”

This week HP got a splash in the local papers when it announced an RFP for its new “Innovation Research Program.” Each of the seven HP regions have their own preferred research topics, totaling 49 overall. Among the 31 topics for “Americas” are social computing, networks on demand, exascale datacenters, personalization, and a number of semiconductor and materials topics. Other regions have shorter (non-overlapping) lists: EMEA has eight topics, including four about information/knowledge management and two on security.

The story was covered by the Chronicle, the Merc and CNET, among others. All featured Rich Freidrich, director of the “Open Innovation Office” (which apparently was reorganized from the university relations office). Internal HP blogger Jamie Beckett interviewed Friedrich:

"I want to use this office to partner with some of the brightest minds in the world," Rich says.

He also hopes to change the way HP and its partners collaborate and to explore using Web 2.0 social networking tools to pursue and support research.

'I'm interested in what a Research 2.0 world looks like," Rich told me.

"How do we build a research community that combines the deep technical expertise of university professors, the deep domain knowledge of industry and the financial resources of government to solve the pressing problems of today and set the agenda for tomorrow?

And how do you do it in a way that you harness collective wisdom and create a really vibrant community?"
As the blogger notes, HP has been partnering with universities for years. In fact, I attended a workshop last month (hosted by UC Santa Cruz) in which one of the HP university account managers (now with the OIO) talked about best practice of working with universities, including his own journal article on the subject.

Clearly there is a continuity between HP’s long-standing university ties (going back to Terman, Hewlett and Packard) and its efforts to introduce open innovation into its R&D activities.

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