During our innovation labs I have grown used to witnessing jaw-dropping moments – not only in terms of the power of the brains in the room or ingenious solutions to problems we never thought we had, but much more in terms of being surprised by the discovery of extraordinary human capabilities and empowerment through technology.
Since I published 7 Ingredients to build a successful innovation ecosystem two years ago, we witnessed the results of our methods being applied across a range of different sectors and were surprised that large industry corporates – from primary industry to semiconductor manufacturers – offered to donate their IP into our toolkit. The success of these methodologies also resulted in the opportunity for me to represent women innovators as European Woman Innovator of the Year and be the first representative from the creative industries to hold this title.
We are now collaborating with the largest AI project in Swedish history to bring a variety of organisations into a space of common understanding. The bottlenecks identified appear to be the same ones that inspired our journey into building innovation ecosystems: corporates are generally reluctant to release large datasets; research is conducted in-house and centralised; collaboration with other organisations is difficult; and disruptive innovation is seen as something beyond scope and treated with extreme caution. Cue in the Industry Commons: a scale up of our innovation methodologies which unites industry stakeholders from different verticals together with the innovation community to safely bolt disruptive innovation on top of industry capabilities. If this sounds like wishful thinking, feel free to jump to point 3.
When I launched Industry Commons with a keynote at the European Commission’s Open Innovation Conference on the 13th of June 2017 it immediately triggered the establishment of the Working Group on Industrial Applications as a unique collaboration between European Directorate Generals for Research and Innovation, Jobs and Growth, and ICT. It has been written into EU policy in the form of recommendations for future programmes and has informed my AI Innovation advisory for G7 leaders as part of the i7.
Here is how our 7 ingredients scale up:
1) Place creativity at the heart of industry
Creativity is not only the distinguishing feature between humans and automation, but a key skill when systems require a creative leap due to new conditions or parameters. Creative Innovation Management is the best option when open innovation activities bring unforeseen scenarios which require novel technological approaches, guidelines or business models. Effective CIM also encourages further exploration of complex scenarios, increasing the potential for innovation yield in unanticipated conditions and for transversal AI applications.
2) Deploy an effective technology transfer toolkit (TTT)
An effective technology transfer toolkit (TTT) pulls together intellectual property from a variety of stakeholders from research and industry in the form of APIs, GUIs and TUIs and presents them to the innovation community to build upon, unleashing an extremely fast knowledge feedback loop. While APIs have been referred to as “the central nervous system of the app economy”, within the Industry Commons GUIs and TUIs demonstrate real breakthroughs as they take the interaction into the physical space. Industry Commons does not preclude the GUI from adding a third, accessible dimension to its form of expression, but rather defines it as any user interface, whether on-screen or tangible, which utilises the graphic language of icons or abstract symbols as an interface with systems, products or applications. A TUI (Tangible User Interface) is a connected physical product or device which allows for interaction with remotely or locally stored digital information using the affordances of its physical and sensing properties. TUIs are proving to be great enablers for technology transfer of both fungible and non-fungible data, or of data with known or unknown properties, for AI applications in the physical space and the creation of novel transversal AI applications at the junction between verticals. The Transfer IP embedded in these interfaces is an essential component of the Industry Commons value chain.
3) Build an IP Stack
We ensure that novel and hybrid applications of existing industry and research capabilities add an Innovation IP layer to the IP Stack. At our Industry Commons testbed at Slush in Helsinki, we tested the first-ever recording of Innovation IP creation in real time. Innovators built their own layer of IP on top of Background IP and Transfer IP, which created solutions for new or previously unsolved use cases, business models and market applications. We recorded this process in the blockchain to allow for the tracking of provenance using a transparent, time-stamped, distributed and permanently attributable ledger. The IP Stack creates a sustainable system for the attribution of IP by embedding smart contracts within this process. While the reluctance to release proprietary Background IP is the most quoted bottleneck for the deployment of AI applications, unambiguous layers of intellectual property embedded within smart contracts allow Background IP to be safely embedded in disruptive products and services.
4) Break down knowledge silos
Our creative testbeds unite all talent with a diverse set of skills from all ages and backgrounds and an even gender split enabling for fast upskilling and re-skilling while collaboratively seeding ideas. During incubation we bring together carefully selected experts and the most original brains from the innovation community who regularly go on to win recognition and awards, including most recently the title of MIT Under-35 Innovator and the winners of the Wearable Technologies World Cup. All benefit from close collaboration with industry experts during prototyping and from an uninterrupted flow of knowledge which enable them to remove bottlenecks in product development. These exchanges also enable industry experts and TTOs to adjust their Transfer IP for best deployment in innovation scenarios. The Industry Commons brings innovators who operate close to new and emerging markets in collaboration with experts from different verticals to inject Background IP with future markets knowledge.
5) Adopt a hands-on mindset
We provide a maker space of raw materiality that removes the artificial distinction between digital and physical, and recognises all things as human constructions, as media, as the tools with which we create, and as the platforms upon which we build. By adopting this hands-on mindset our labs have not only generated new knowledge, stimulated breakthroughs, or identified business opportunities, markets and applications, but have also proven to reveal extraordinary human capabilities. On the second day of our testbed at Slush in Helsinki we experienced a jaw-dropping moment: the blind singer at the centre of our multidisciplinary laboratory and performance was able to operate a brain-computer interface without the usually required hours of training. For everyone in the lab the penny dropped: this meant she was much more able than someone traditionally considered to be able-bodied when it came to machines operated through brain computer interfaces.
6) Plug into a powerful value chain
The more data is shared between verticals and among competitors, the more opportunities exist for data-driven applications and advancement in AI. Through participation in a decentralised data exchange that gathers diverse datasets from across a wide range of industries and makes that data available using a managed set of protocols, this data may be combined and used to empower groundbreaking AI applications. Industry Commons serves as a physical market place for the sea of data available through carefully managed protocols and introduced into the IP Stack. The physical nature of the market place allows R&I, technology transfer, market analysis, product testing, early adoption, HR, re-skilling, CSR and business development to be integrated with creative innovation management, emerging market insights and hands-on evolution of the technocultural landscape by the research and innovation communities, for a powerful value chain and a fast track to new markets.
7) Create entirely new markets
We have found that some of the most exciting opportunities for breakthrough ideas exist at the collisions between knowledge and expertise verticals. As well as empowering individual sectors with combined datasets, our TTT allows for virtually infinite combinations of IP to be ported across verticals and tested in previously unimagined business cases. Hybrid applications built through an IP Stack are tested with early adopters from the innovation community who operate close to emerging markets. This enables us to test novel business models for Background IPs and discover how rights, privacy and security work in these evolving scenarios, without the level of risk or cost usually associated with new market analysis. The identified new markets make economic sense not only because they are created from a set of established and new capabilities, but primarily because these very combinations appear to create new meaning and advance us as humans.
After all technology is, and always should be, a means for human empowerment.
Above, a jaw-dropping moment during #MTFLabs: blind singer Riikka Hänninen was proven to be much more able than someone traditionally considered to be able-bodied when it comes to operating brain computer interfaces. As well as being fluent at playing the musical scale using neurofeedback, Riikka was also able to feel the reaction of the three audience members on stage via their pulse signal, and the movements of the cyborg Jasmine Isdrake via vibration. [Photo: Andrew Dubber]
Since I wrote ‘7 ingredients to build a successful innovation ecosystem’ we have scaled our methodology to become what we now call the Industry Commons. In this video I address the theory behind it, and the challenge of constructing new kinds of mental models for the physical internet.
The development of the Industry Commons is the logical consequence of the original project’s impacts. By the time we rolled out our Market Testbed our project had hit 5.5 million impacts on social media, one of our startup teams had already filed a patent for heavy industry, agriculture and forestry; one hit the Forbes ‘top entrepreneur’ list; another received €1 million in follow-up funding; and partner institutions had several papers and book chapters accepted for publication as byproducts of the process. Industry had donated IP to our toolkit and some of the first transversal applications were created – and ported across to other industry verticals. Our methodologies were translated into high level innovation recommendations for the European Commission’s future research and innovation programme.
Since then, through the Industry Commons, we developed a way to safely bolt disruptive innovation on top of existing industry capabilities. 13th June 2017 saw the official launch of this idea with a keynote at the European Commission Open Innovation 2.0 conference and Industry Commons has since been adopted as a key recommendation for the future of European open innovation policy.
The above speech was delivered as part of the Worldwide IoT Day, to a Rotterdam meetup focused on Art and Imagination in IoT, on 9 April 2017.