10 Aug 2020

Carving a Niche – An Interview with Vicki O’Brien of Strategic Allies


Making innovation happen
Dedicated to helping companies make their next technological breakthrough, Strategic Allies matches businesses with innovators to drive open innovation.

For many people, finding a lifelong partner involves more than just chance; it requires an open mind and a willingness to invest in a relationship. The same principle can be applied to open innovation.

A 2017 survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group found that among the best-performing companies, 77% engage in open collaboration, where internal stakeholders work together with external parties to drive innovation. The difficulty, however, isn’t just engaging in collaboration itself, but finding the right partner instead. According to one study, half of those surveyed cited uncertainty towards their partners’ trustworthiness as a barrier towards embracing open innovation.

And rightfully so. Establishing a good partnership is half the battle won, which is why Strategic Allies has made it their mission to help businesses search for suitable technology partners and uncover real innovation opportunities. Speaking with IPI, Vicki O’Brien, Director of Strategic Allies, shares their expertise and thoughts on collaboration and open innovation.


1. What does Strategic Allies do and what sets you apart in your industry?

At Strategic Allies, we specialise in technology scouting. We connect global manufacturing brands with technology-rich companies, research organisations or individual inventors to create mutually beneficial partnerships. More importantly, we offer an extensive international network and a secure platform for our clients to benefit from a verified and continuous pipeline off potential partners or solutions that fit their needs, enabling them to rapidly progress their R&D and new product development workstreams.


2. What is unique about Strategic Allies’ approach towards open innovation?

While our clients tend to have their own research and development, manufacturing or distribution capabilities, they often lack the appropriate resources to effectively benefit from open innovation and achieve desired business outcomes.

Strategic Allies’ approach towards open innovation is simple and overcomes those barriers mentioned. Following many years of experience in technology scouting, we are able to match our client’s needs to the right partner by setting up relevant search filters. We then search for candidates confidentially, screen them through multiple lenses before a recommendation is made. While technology may be the impetus for collaboration, we believe that it is ultimately the people who make or break the deal.


3. Can you share some examples of how collaborating with Strategic Allies has benefitted companies?

We had a recent client in the health and wellness sector who wanted to respond quickly to new market trends and deliver products that end-consumers see on social media. They wanted to identify start-ups that could offer technology-based consumer products. The client tapped into our expertise and worked with us to find opportunities beyond their network and industry, as our partners come from diverse market sectors.

One of the matches for the client was a small company that developed a natural, anti-bacterial, anti-viral additive. The business opportunity we presented was invaluable to the start-up, as they were able to extend their product’s sales and distribution reach globally. In addition, the start-up could leverage our client’s logistical and technical capabilities, which would allow them to scale up their product at a rapid pace. The access to a global market ultimately gave the start-up a chance to integrate their additive in numerous applications within a global consumer product company.


4. What kinds of potential collaborators and companies are Strategic Allies and your clients hoping to work with from Singapore?

We particularly value our relationship with organisations like IPI, which has helped us to identify Singapore companies and innovators that could fulfil our clients’ need. Therefore, we hope to collaborate more with Singapore partners who are knowledgeable about their local landscape, and market leaders who can introduce us to innovative start-ups as well as established companies who possess the right technical competencies.

As we expand our network of budding innovative businesses, we are also keen to find clients who desire to engage beyond their industry and comfort zone. This way, more mutually beneficial collaborations can be formed between these 2 types of organisations.


5. What are three key areas that both clients of Strategic Allies and Singapore’s enterprises/SMEs should focus on to successfully engage in open innovation?

First, ensure that you stay open-minded to opportunities that exist beyond your company, industry and most importantly, your own knowledge. Second, learn to leverage on existing personal connections, as the solution might be closer than you think. Finally, make sure that you personally engage with potential partners and not just assess the potential for collaboration based solely on their public information. if you can’t do that personally, find someone who can — like us!

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