Phil McKinney on Co-Innovation with Competitors

CoDev2013 is just several short months away and we are excited to share some of the insights and expertise of our conference faculty with you as we prepare this important annual forum.

Phil McKinney, President and CEO of CableLabs, heads the R&D organization responsible for charting the cable industry’s technology and innovation roadmap. In his keynote address at CoDev2013, he will be discussing the accelerated pace of innovation and how it is compelling companies to co-innovate and standardize the foundational elements of their industry. We caught up with Phil to ask him a few questions about the pros and cons of co-innovation.

CoDev2013: How difficult is it to convince competing companies to come to the table and share R&D investments?

McKinney: a) Competitors come around the table regularly as part of industry standard work (e.g. Google + Apple working on HTML5). Given the level of investment needed for some innovations, the only option is for companies to work together.

b) Co-innovation isn’t just about competitors coming together. It can be others who have an area of common interest, common customer base, common sales channel, etc that come together to share the cost of innovation.

CoDev2013: If you share your R&D investments what is the opportunity for differentiation – how do you gain competitive advantage? How do you compete and collaborate?

McKinney: When participating in co-innovation efforts, the key criteria is for any given project to:

Be in an area of common interest for BOTH parties. Otherwise it’s a “contract R&D project” and not co-innovation.

The resulting project will have significant impact to BOTH parties. Otherwise, both parties will not have the same level of commitment.

There is a mutual dependency (neither organization can do it alone) to make the project successful. This is critical.

CoDev2013: Co-innovation for brand new industries – how would your approach apply?

McKinney: The challenge for new industries is to drive growth and scale. Opportunities for co-innovation could include:

Industry standards – get the industry to agree on areas that don’t drive differentiation. Focus on areas where scale and consistency will drive down costs.

Co-innovate with key supply chain/ecosystem participants – help those that are key to your value chain innovate in ways that benefit your organization.