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Archive for May, 2009

Innovation in the big corporations is in crisis. This is obviously no news to many of us. Either there are not enough innovations in the company (typically due to corporate culture focusing on maintaining the Status Quo) or alternatively, there are too many of them. This is the case with Nokia which has in the recent years spent hundreds of millions of euros (if not more) in inventing new ideas, researching many of them, trying out some and patenting quite a few. For one reason or another, many of them have got “no-go” decision for any further action.

Technopolis Ventures, a subsidiary of a Finnish public real-estate corporation, has made an agreement with Nokia to offer some of these left-over innovations for Finnish Start-ups in Oulu and some other selected cities in Finland. Sounds too good to be true? Read on!

Nokia Outsources Finding the Golden Eggs to the Finnish Startups

Nokia Outsources Finding the Golden Eggs to the Finnish Startups

The project itself has been launched already some time ago in Oulu, the home city of Technopolis. Today there was the first marketing event for the project in the capital area. The concept is aiming to find an alternative way to commercialize innovations, the traditional way being focusing on inventing new technologies within VTT (state-owned research center) or in the universities. The new idea is find a way to commercialize ideas born within large companies (such as Nokia).

The idea is good, maybe even excellent. The project is taking place in next three years (2009-2011). The total budget is 5 M€ and is paid by Tekes, the participating cities and companies. The amount of money seems somewhat small if they really aim to get 100 projects/startups involved.

The ideas now available cover some 60 Nokia-selected  innovations in the fields of Near-Field Communication (NFC), Environment, Health Care, Location-Based Services (LBS), Mobile Security and Future Internet Services.

There’s a catch, however. There is no free lunch, right?

The companies willing to take advantage of this must have a Finnish VAT number. Technopolis Ventures will match the companies and available innovations in the Nokia innovation pool. After evaluation and screening by Technopolis Ventures, and signing the NDA and contract with Nokia, the funding can be applied from Tekes. It is currently unclear whether the company actually MUST look for Tekes funding or can it also do without.

There were few interesting questions asked in the event today. Here are some examples:

Q: Can I get in touch with the original inventors of an innovation at hand?
A: Maybe, it depends.

Q: Can we see the list of the innovations available?
A: No, you have to provide some keywords describing your own idea (or company business) and we will see if there are matches with the available innovations.

Q: Inventing new ideas and innovations is easy. What about Go To Market strategy and help concerning that?
A: As Finland has one of the best innovation systems in the world, it will take care of that… (Note: This answer was given in a sarcastic tone)

Q: As Nokia keeps parallel rights to everything they “give away”, does it mean that Nokia can at any later time do the same thing than the startup?
A: Yes.

Q: Are there any restrictions concerning the exit phase of a company building its business on one of these innovations?
A: Yes, for example Nokia may forbid selling the company to a Nokia competitor (definition of this remained unclear).

You can also take a look of the Presentation Slides (in Finnish).

Nokia Technopolis Innovation Mill (Process)

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Ecolane Dynamic Carpool illustration (2003)

Ecolane Dynamic Carpool illustration (2003)

In 2004, we conducted an interesting dynamic carpool trial at Schiphol airport (The Netherlands) with a local partner. It’s since few years now, and I thought to take a look how the world has changed ever since. And trying to figure out whether the market (of dynamic carpool) will eventually be there or not.

The project was named “Easy-Rider”. There were respectable sponsors involved, such as Alcatel, KLM, Volkswagen and ABN Amro. Despite free phones for the participants, well functioning service and working technology, the project failed miserably. The key reasons for this were wrong business model (service expected passenger to pay money and driver to earn money) and bad marketing. Customers simply didn’t know about it so the critical mass was never achieved. The traffic in the pilot area was bad, but maybe not bad enough for the customers to change their behaviour.

Maybe somebody in that area (Schiphol) can comment whether the traffic is now (5 years later) better or worse that at that time?

Philippe Le Grand has written a good summary (it’s here) of various alternatives for carpool services currently available. It is interesting to notice that there is for example one year old new service that resembles Ecolane system quite a lot 🙂 They are also making the same mistake concerning the business model.

I definitely believe that there will be a need to re-engineer the private driving sometimes in the future (see a good Nokia research paper on the subject here).

But who is going to be the first one to really make it? What are the critical success factors for this kind of service? Is it use of social networking (trust), government subsidies (like is the case for public transportation), some out-of-the-box idea (like connecting every car to a “seat exchange”) or simply the fact that one day there simply are too many cars on the roads?

In some countries there are of course also cultural barriers. But that is another story then.

Comments are welcome! Best ideas win a free carpool place in my car (although I manly commute by bike nowadays!).

Ecolane Carpool Lanes - The Future?

Ecolane Carpool Lanes - The Future?

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