Open for Innovation


Collaboration and innovation are a must for a business to move forward and grow. Open innovation (OI) provides organisations with the opportunity to use multiple external and internal sources to drive innovation. This episode focuses on how IPI defines OI and how it brings corporates and partners together to innovate and stay ahead. It will also highlight how IPI has groomed and enabled enterprises over the past 10 years to become industry game changers. 



Yvonne Chan: Welcome to futurepulse, a podcast series brought to you by IPI, your innovation partner for impact. Together, we will explore how ideas, creativity and collaboration drive impactful innovation.

Welcome to our first episode of futurepulse - Open for Innovation. I'm Yvonne Chan and I'm joined by Dr Sze Tiam Lin, the Head of Innovation and Technology at IPI, and David Jakubovic, Senior Director R&D, Open Innovation Asia at Procter and Gamble.

Welcome Dr Sze and David. Collaboration and innovation. The must haves for businesses to move forward and grow. So, let's look at the opportunities that open innovation provides to enterprises and we also want to find out more about what IPI has done to help enterprises innovate to become industry game changers. So first question - what does open innovation mean to you and what does it entail?

I want to come to you first, Dr Sze, because you've mentioned before that IPI hopes to drive more open innovation, the idea that companies should leverage on external ideas to fuel their growth. So has that definition changed in the past year?

1:13 Dr Sze Tiam Lin: Thank Yvonne for this opportunity to share this podcast, our first podcast and also in celebration of our anniversary and nice to see David together with me in this session. Coming back to the question of open innovation, it is really getting a company to look at the purposeful inflow and outflow of ideas to accelerate the company's innovation. And by means of inflow, we are getting a company to embrace external ideas or partnerships to sort of complement their existing development (of) product and service innovation. 
1:46 Yvonne Chan: What about the outflow portion, Dr Sze?
1:50 Dr Sze Tiam Lin: This is an interesting plane, where company has developed ideas or technology, and perhaps they can expand new markets by external partners who can use it better to create the opportunity.
2:03 Yvonne Chan: So inflow and outflow, like you said, it's two halves to this concept. Thanks, Dr Sze. David, 15 years ago, P&G coined the term 'Connect + Develop' to drive innovation capability and output by better connecting to people and companies outside P&G. How has that evolved, David?

Dr David Jakubovic: Great question. Connect and develop is our brand of open innovation. So I'll use the term open innovation from now on. And really over that time, I think there have been three evolutions. The first one is, and it comes back to what Dr Sze was saying, it's now become part of our mindset, a part of our culture that we look outside, we embrace the possibilities of going outside. And it's the role of every individual, it's not just a few specialists in the organisation who are doing that. 

Second piece is, we're then focusing and bringing open innovation to help us on our ever more challenging and demanding innovation problems that we're trying to solve, such that all of our brands, all of our big innovations have external partners they can work with to help solve them.

And thirdly, I think we've evolved from relationships, which are one-on-one - so P&G with one partner, now into P&G working with networks and ecosystems.

3:14 Yvonne Chan: So I'm hearing this open innovation, part of that three points is one of them is open innovation is part of a mindset to look outside the organisation. So what are the elements then of good open innovation in today's context? I think that's quite a broad question. But I would want to ask you both to narrow it down to some key essentials. Does open innovation mean you have to be sustainable? It has to be relevant? Dr Sze?
3:40 Dr Sze Tiam Lin: Oh, thank you very much. I've been thinking alongside and I think in the earlier conversation with David is really, perhaps five Cs if I may bring back that conversation. We're quite used to 5Cs. I think there's a cultural part. David, please feel free to add. There's a cultural part. And I believe there's a capability while you might have the culture to embrace external or internal ideas, it is also the capability to do that. And then we talked about the third C could be connectivity, being able to connect to an extensive and global network, and of course collaborations. I believe that's important and I'm sure David will add more on the complementing and contribution part of developing a sustainable open innovation culture.
4:25 Yvonne Chan: Culture, connectivity, collaboration, David.
4:30 Dr David Jakubovic: I think the piece I'd build on that is for that collaboration to be successful, you need to have a common goal and building on the theme of the series here maybe having a common goal that both parties are then working towards, because one of the differences with open innovation versus internal innovation is you're working for different organisations. So it's not always immediately obvious what success look like for both parties. But if you can get to that common goal and you're working towards the same end, I think that's a critical element to then enabling the complementary capabilities. And the other factors that Dr Sze talked about to then come to bear, and you're directing them towards a mutual common goal where both parties will then win. 
5:08 Yvonne Chan: Absolutely, it's about working towards that common goal and keeping those five Cs in mind, right? Culture connectivity, collaboration, complementary contributions and capabilities. I got that right didn't I, gentlemen? Gentlemen, why is open innovation then critical to a business success and scalability? Dr Sze.
5:31 Dr Sze Tiam Lin: That's a very good question. I think in this very challenging time, again, you know, by the pandemic, and for many businesses, particularly SMEs, the competition is getting very steep. And I think they really have to enhance their product, refresh their product to continue stay competitive in a very fast-changing world that they lead. So if they take on the previous attempt to create everything themselves, it may take much longer and perhaps miss the opportunity. So the importance of being able to embrace external ideas and partners to accelerate, I think it's more critical than ever.
6:09 Yvonne Chan: Especially when the competition is getting so intense. David, do you want to build on that too? 
6:14 Dr David Jakubovic: Yeah, I'll build on that. Let me bring this sort of consumer lens to it because I'm in a business that's consumer goods. And really, as I look at it, the consumer has plenty of choice now. When you go down the shopping aisle, or you're shopping online, huge amount of choice and variety you've got. So how do I make sure that the choice is then making our choices to use and buy our products and rebuy them the next time as opposed to the competitors. And I think that the premise of how you succeed doing that is through innovation. So if you do want to succeed, then innovation is required. And then if you assume therefore, innovation is required, well, the next logical step is let me then bring in others to help them better innovate to serve those consumers and then you get towards open innovation, which enables you then to sustain your innovation, serve the consumers and win versus competition. 
7:00 Yvonne Chan: So David, can you cite some examples, then on that note of how open innovation has contributed to a business's success and scalability?

Dr David Jakubovic: Great question, and I could probably give you many, so I hope I didn't bore you. But let me pick one here, which has maybe got several facets to it. Not necessarily to suggest that you need to look at one with so many facets, but just to give insights into different types of open innovation that can exist. And the example here is our laundry pods, Ariel or Tide pods, where you've got a single unit dose laundry product you put in your washing machine takes care of the load for you, brings it up beautifully clean, and it's a very simple and convenient way to do that. So to achieve that, there were three challenges we had.

One was we needed to get to this super concentrated surfactant in the pod. There, we then worked with academia to help us better understand how do these very concentrated surfactants work. So we had to collaborate with academia. We also then had to make sure that the consumer would adopt this new habit and that we could design for them, so we wanted consumer-centric design. Then we went off and actually did crowdsourcing; working with consumers and agencies that enabled us to use this new way of engaging with consumers through crowdsourcing. So it's a different type of example. And the third one would be in the films that we've designed to hold this liquid, which have to work through the manufacturing process, but then rupture in use in the washing machine, so it breaks very quickly and washes your clothes. And then we had to do a lot of work developing with the film manufacturers, and the engineering suppliers, who made the equipment to let us make the pods. So sort of different levels of innovation depending on the type of need, you pick a different partner.

8:40 Yvonne Chan: So many facets to this to make this work, my goodness. I never knew I needed a laundry pod in my life, you know. I would be one of your very willing end users. So I want to circle back now to Dr Sze and I want you to tell us more about how the role of IPI then has evolved over the years. Instead of just simply matching and linking potential partners, what is IPI doing to encourage more companies to create new products and solutions for efficiency and impact? I just want to take this opportunity to quote one of my favorite authors, Simon Sinek, and he says, to be innovative, we can't look to what others have done. And the whole idea of blazing a path is that there was no path there before. So how do you encourage more companies to create from scratch?
9:29 Dr Sze Tiam Lin: Thanks for that question. When I was just hearing from David, I really feel so envious. You know, the corporates like P&G have the resources, the culture, the means to be able to find partners to accelerate and certainly not for SME, and this is where it's a spot that IPI was set up 10 years ago to do that - to help SMEs to look outside of themselves, you know, from a culture perspective. And having that desire is how to, and that's where IPI was set up to provide platforms and services to help companies get connected to the right partners after understanding their innovation needs or technology requirements, helping them to find the partners, helping to facilitate that discussion. Because collaboration, there's always the treatment of ideas and foreground ideas, background ideas, and get them moving along to other partners who could accelerate their innovation. So that's something we complement to help enterprises in their open innovation journey.
10:30 Yvonne Chan: I see. So a lot of facilitation of discussions and accelerating that progression towards innovation for many of our SMEs. When it comes to collaborating for innovation, though, what should companies look out for in terms of the fit? I know, David, for P&G, you've worked with so many partners on different levels. How do you identify synergy with another company?
10:57 Dr David Jakubovic: Great question. And for that one, I think it comes back to some of the topics we touched on earlier, some of the Cs. I think some of it starts with identifying common purpose, common goals, and then are there complementary capabilities? We talked about that, which both parties then have that when you bring them together would enable those two parties to deliver solutions and new innovation beyond what either could do by themselves against that common goal.
11:30 Yvonne Chan: So identifying the common goals and those complementary capabilities. Can you tell us a bit more then about the A*STAR–P&G collaboration?

Dr David Jakubovic: I can bring it to life maybe in the context of what we do with A*STAR. So let me start maybe with P&G, and what we can bring, because if we don't bring anything to the partner, they're not going to want to work with us. But I think what we can bring is, and this is what industry brings, is real-life tough problems, really challenging complex problems, that if solved could make a difference. Because if we solve them, then we can serve the consumers. And through serving consumers, P&G then creates some growth. But we can also serve the consumers and the communities in which they work and the ecosystems which within they play and where we're making the product. So that's what we can bring to it, along with the capabilities we have. 

So as we work with A*STAR, we've got an innovation centre. And I'm very fortunate as Dr Sze was saying to be part of almost a 500 strong innovation centre that we have here in Singapore, almost 500 scientists and engineers, tremendous capability across our beauty care, oral care, personal healthcare, and some other categories. And then we can bring that capability then to A*STAR and the problems and then see what they've got that's complementary. And they have tremendous research, talent, equipment, and capability that they can bring to help us better understand our problems, and then better solve those problems. And they also share the mutual goal where they want to use in effect the taxpayers money, because they're a government entity, then to get a return on the research investment they're making and have some impact from that, for society. So that's where the mutual goals come in, and the complementary capabilities, and we've gotten tremendous successes we've been having with A*STAR across a range of areas that are important to them - on sustainability, health and wellness, the application of digital technologies, manufacturing, supply chain innovation, just to name a few.

13:29 Yvonne Chan: That's a fantastic example, really, a great illustration of how mutual goals, having common mutual goals can really play a part in helping both companies, one from the research perspective, an R&D perspective, and one from the consumer side also achieved so much more than what you could achieve individually. So how can we get more companies, gentlemen, to embrace this concept of open innovation to look outside of the organisation and also get over some of the challenges of this journey because it's not an easy one. Dr Sze?
14:03 Dr Sze Tiam Lin: Yes, good question. And, in fact, this has been what we aspire to do at IPI. So we have through various platforms, reached out to companies, whether it be our Innovation Marketplace, sending out regular information feed on the innovation opportunity, as well as the need to get companies to respond. And David will always look quite excitedly to my Wednesday alerts that we send out. So that's through our online platform that we reach out to the masses. We run physical events, e.g. TechInnovation. We'll be having our 10th edition of TechInnovation in September 28th to 30th. And this is a physical event or it used to be but of course this year it'll go digital and reach out also to share success stories of how people do it. So getting companies to share their SME journey so that people view that it is doable. Why not? So online and offline is a strategy to reach out to the enterprise.
15:02 Yvonne Chan: Lots going on in that space, Dr Sze. David, can you share with us too from an MNC perspective how we can get more companies to embrace the concept of OI?

Dr David Jakubovic: I think Dr Sze was talking about one piece where they've really got a unique role to play and that's what I think Singapore is lucky with IPI and some other agencies focused on innovation is that it's the 'how to'. Because while you need the right mindset, and leadership needs to then be setting expectations, and rewarding and sharing the risk of doing it because innovation always has risks, so there is a risk associated with (OI). So while leadership can do that, and individuals can take that on board and want to do it, you also need to equip them with the tools and the approaches so that they know how to go about doing it. The coach if you like, if you make that analogy to kind of sporting, so IPI’s, our tremendous coach. 

And then the other piece, I think that's important is to get some early wins. So you don't want to be if we take this analogy, but you don't want to keep running in the races and always coming last, you want to get some early wins. So enter some races where you can get some early success, build your confidence, get some return on that investment that your leadership has had the confidence to put into you. And then it starts to grow. And others also start to see the success you're having, and they want more of it, and then it starts to snowball.

16:19 Yvonne Chan: On that concept of race, that's a really nice segue, I think to come to my next question, because Dr Sze, I've been seeing a lot of competitions they have had and are being rolled out to encourage more companies to innovate via different tracks. So like David said, it's not about waiting to reach the end of the track, but maybe those small little wins, right? So tell us more about the relevance of the sustainability OI challenge and then we have also other challenges that are coming up this year?
16:49 Dr Sze Tiam Lin: Yeah, thank you very much. In fact, this is in our platform, we cannot reach out to get more company to participate in co-innovation. And one approach is we reach out to major corporates who would like to share their challenge problem(s). I have problem statements, and we help to understand them, particularly in the sustainability space, like packaging, or related, more greener kind of technologies, products and services. So we get those challenges and we reach out to industry to invite them to co-innovate.
17:18 Yvonne Chan: How can we ensure that the incubation for innovation, though also delivers long term value and returns for stakeholders? How can we get to commercialisation more quickly? I think that's a concern for many businesses that the spending too much time and resources on the R&D bit and not making money quick enough, David.

Dr David Jakubovic: And I would argue that's what open innovation can enable you to do. Because by bringing in other parties, you've got these complementary capabilities, you can accelerate your path to market. If I take a reasonably trivial example, but if you've got a new technology that's working in the lab, but you haven't got the manufacturing capability and assets and capital installed, to enable you to make it. Well, rather than build it yourself, when you see who has got something that can do it or something similar, that could do it much more quickly, with lower capital when you can, so it accelerates you to market. 

Or if you've got a technology, but you haven't got a brand. You haven't got the sales capability, the scale to do that. Could you license that? In P&G will and then in-license technologies that we're able to bring some of our assets and capabilities too. So I think actually, if you view open innovation as an accelerator, by bringing in those capabilities and assets from others, it enables you to get the return more quickly. Albeit you share that with the partners. But then you're together, you're looking to make the size of the prize even bigger, so that you both get a win out of this. And by bringing those complementary capabilities, you can dream even bigger get-to-market, you can consider geographies you couldn't consider trade channels, you couldn't have considered alone.

18:54 Yvonne Chan: You're dreaming even bigger with open innovation. I like that. Dr Sze, you agree? 
18:59 Dr Sze Tiam Lin: Yes! 
19:00 Yvonne Chan: A very resounding yes there. So what do you have to say then to those who believe that, who still believe that innovation lies in the exclusive domain of large MNCs with billion dollar R&D budgets? That's too old school thinking now right with open innovation because then you can partner with others with the right capabilities and resources who can propel your innovation journey, gentlemen? Maybe David, go first.
19:27 Dr David Jakubovic: I think some areas where we're certainly seeing that myth dispel, is in the areas where the technologies are moving so rapidly and being applied in different ways. Digital being a great example. You know, the application of digital technologies, then into MNCs. You know, we've been working with small companies, start-ups who are helping us develop what we call advisors. So we have an Olay advisor where through your smartphone takes an image of your face, analyses that image and helps become your coach to then help you figure out how to you then improve the appearance of your skin based upon the analysis it's done of the current state of your skin. And we were partnering them with partners. That's not a core capability we've historically had in the digital space with smartphones. But we have had tremendous capability on the creams, the skincare, the technology on anti-aging, anti-wrinkle, uneven skin tone, bringing those all together then. So open innovation then enables the combination of both what big MNCs can play, but also getting into more disruptive breakthrough innovations.
20:38 Dr Sze Tiam Lin: And if I may add as well an example. We had the opportunity at IPI to work with a company called Matex International. They are an SME that provides textile chemicals to many parts of the textile industry. And years ago, we had the opportunity to encourage them to embrace a new idea in the treatment of waste discharge. Now the dye textile chemical discharge is not so straightforward because of the chemical content. But working with then the NUS team, they were able to develop very sensitive membrane to treat waste discharge, and I think they have ploughed in so much. And I think soon they'll be launching a new system to be a treat waste discharge for textile chemicals. This is a new business to them all together. So yes, working with SMEs, not just corporates, can embrace new innovations to create new business growth.
21:33 Yvonne Chan: Some really excellent examples from the both of you there to dispel the myth, like David said about, you know, R&D or innovation still remaining very much in the domains of large MNCs. That's too old school thinking already. Gentlemen, any final words of advice, then for companies who have yet to embark on a journey of open innovation, they still have too many concerns, what would you say to them today?
21:59 Dr David Jakubovic: Maybe two pieces, you know. Start with ambition to do something that really matters. Because if it really matters to you and to your business, it's probably also then going to matter to others. So you can inspire then people to come and join you to solve that problem. You know, whether it be a sustainability challenge, because these are big problems people care about, and they want to then come and work with you to try and solve them. So that would be one piece. And the second bit is then think right from the start, how do I set it up that every party who takes part in this wins? So that when you're going through the pain and the difficulty of innovation, because it's not always easy, you'll stumble, you'll fall. But you want everybody to get back up again, you got to make sure that everybody is working towards something they really care about. And that they know when they do deliver it, they're gonna win as a result.
22:44 Yvonne Chan: Thank you, David. I really liked that. And but you to do to get there, you need to make sure you have the right leadership too then.

Dr David Jakubovic: Yes, we talked on that earlier. To share that risk, set the expectation, but also share the risk. Give the reassurance that the learning you generate from this is valuable. And when you do stumble, pick up. Don't keep stumbling at the same hurdle, that would be crazy. 

So find a different way how to go around it reset. But you need leadership and you need that sort of capabilities that IPI have had on how to, so that you're not making the mistakes others have made in the past. You've got the ability of IPI to come and say, well, actually, based upon what we know, here's the best practice, here's what to avoid doing, and if you do this, you're more likely to succeed.

23:25 Yvonne Chan: IPI is the coach, Dr Sze.
23:28 Dr Sze Tiam Lin: Thanks, David. I mean, my wish or takeaway is really to make the first step. It doesn't have to be a very big step, take a first step, I think one is to have a conversation with us. But if you feel that maybe you can just access our Innovation Marketplace, to check out what's there, or even TechInnovation, that could be a small but a good start. And from there, we'll be happy to have a further conversation with you, like what David said, to share with you what can work, what may not work, depending on your budget, your expectations, and the culture as well. It is really a bit of hand-holding to take you through that first step.

Yvonne Chan: I think it's also very reassuring for SMEs and enterprises, to have that little bit of hand-holding and for those SMEs and enterprises who are listening in today. Well, you've heard from Dr Sze himself, do take the first step, have that conversation with IPI and also have a look at the open Innovation Marketplace and see what facets of what IPI can offer you, could work for your company. 

So thank you so much, Dr Sze and David for outlining the parameters of open innovation as well as setting the scene for the rest of the episodes in this futurepulse podcast series. I think the elements of good open innovation include and are not limited to finding complementary capabilities. That's what we've been hearing a lot about today and also finding those common goals between your partners and your company. And for those who are still contemplating whether this is the right journey or the process for you? Well, it's time to view open innovation as an accelerator for your innovation journey. Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure speaking to you both Dr Sze and David.

25:07 Dr David Jakubovic: Thank you.
25:08 Dr Sze Tiam Lin: It's our pleasure as well.
25:09 Yvonne Chan: I'm Yvonne Chan, thank you so much for joining us and we will see you next time for another exciting and insightful episode.