Open Innovation in Space : Powering a New Era
About The Publication
The classical model of innovation behind closed doors is slowly but surely being challenged by the open innovation model that is reshaping the way organizations bring new products and services into the market.
This paper reports on the results of an International Space University Team Project focused on the potential, limitations and conditions of success of open innovation in the space sector. The project used ISU’s international, interdisciplinary, intercultural (3Is) approach in order to determine the fit of the open innovation model to the challenges and opportunities in the space sector.
Open innovation can be defined as ”innovating with partners by sharing risk and sharing reward”. Conventional approaches to technology development for space, such as spin-offs or spin-ins are no longer sufficient to fully describe the interactions between organizations in today’s R&D landscape. From the Android operating system to 3D printing designs, from crowdsourcing to Wikipedia, a wide range of platforms enable contributors from around the world to work together and develop innovative solutions to very challenging scientific, technical and socio-economic problems.
Traditionally, conducting space technology development and launching space missions required massive infrastructure investments, long lead times and large teams of experts. However, internal R&D, dedicated marketing departments and closely guarded intellectual property are no longer the only way to achieve success. Companies such as Space X, Scaled Composites, zero2infinity, NanoSatisfi, Copenhagen Suborbitals, Planet Labs and others work in a fundamentally different way compared to space agencies. Smaller, nimbler teams, significant use of commercial off the shelf technologies, crowdfunding, a more aggressive approach to managing risk and a great motivation to leverage intellectual property are just some of their defining characteristics.
In the traditional, closed innovation model, organizations generate, develop and commercialize their own ideas. In contrast, in the open innovation model, organizations aim to commercialize external as well as internal ideas by exploring multiple paths to the market. These paths include launching start-up companies, licensing intellectual property, forming joint ventures and many other mechanisms.
By using a case study methodology supported by a critical literature review, the project team highlighted the potential of open innovation in space by identifying its most promising applications as well as its limitations. The advantages and disadvantages of open innovation in space mission design, development and operations were compared to the current closed innovation practices.