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November 10, 2009

Nokia and open innovation

Henry-TirriESPOO, Finland – Henri Tirri heads up a global team of over 500 researchers at Nokia Research Centre and together they’re responsible for driving long term innovation at Nokia. Over the last three years though, the team have been building a network of labs around the world to create an Open Innovation network. Like the rest of the company, research and the resulting innovations are taking a more open approach, where expertise and specialities outside the company¬† can be tapped into to speed up progress.

It isn’t just about speed. Henri, who reckons he has one of the coolest jobs on earth, sites a range of benefits behind open innovation. The opportunity to work with the world’s leading institutions is a major boon. Nokia works with established research establishments including Univesity of Cambridge and MIT. Alongside this, the access to global intellectual vision and insight is key. But it isn’t just about taking, it’s the opportunity to give as well, and being part of a community that helps to drive global vision and innovation. These strategic collaborations with intellectuals and institutions form the backbone of Nokia’s open innovation network.

Resources are the biggest challenge Henri and his team face. Internal-only innovation can be expensive and limiting, so using this open network the team can achieve a lot more, a lot faster. The spread too, is impressive. Everything from nano-science to radio research is happening and the team are rapidly increasing their software expertise (already pretty extensive) and working towards more embedded software and technologies.

So where does that impact products? Henri says technology transfer is one of the biggest challenges he faces but he believes Nokia has in place a good support network to take innovation and turn it into real products. That’s a relief, though it isn’t simple. The process has a series of steps before a new technology can escape NRC and make it’s way into the world. Working its way through Advanced Systems Engineering, the business validation unit, before passing strategy and operational excellence and forming part of Nokia’s corporate development unit means new tech has to be spot on before it sees the light of day in a product. Easy to see then why the process keeps Henri awake at night.