Research shows that nearly 50% of the current S&P 500 companies will be replaced over the next ten years. For any company that wants to avoid this fate, innovation is critical. However, many companies don’t have in-house resources to set up internal innovation labs or teams. When your organization lacks resources, outsourcing is one of the most successful alternatives. Working with an innovation partner allows you to access the funds, labor, and experience your company needs. If you want to be the best in the game, it’s time to find an innovation partner.

What Is an Innovation Partner?

An innovation partner is an external organization or individual that companies form a relationship with in order to collaborate on identifying new processes and approaches to solve current market problems.

Ideally, an innovation partner has the tools and abilities to undertake good market research and assist you in achieving your goals and objectives. They should also be good at communication, as you will be exchanging ideas, deliverables, and project duties. In short, an innovation partner is a partner with mutual interests that helps your company grow.

Why Do You Need an Innovation Partner?

As many companies have found, working with a partner benefits your business. Some benefits include:

Supplement Internal Resources: Many companies lack internal resources to support innovation, especially if they’re a startup on a lean budget. These resources include: Time, employees, and funds. Working with a partner is often the saving grace that you need to fill in the gaps where your internal resources are lacking.

Collaboration Sparks Creativity: Often people need an outside perspective and other experienced people to bounce ideas back and forth. Is your product development team working on a new launch and needs people with outside experience to get past a hurtle? Some of the most cutting edge innovations stem from simply bringing people together. Working in a collaborative ecosystem may be exactly what your team needs.

Identifying New Business Opportunities: Expanding your network and connections opens up more business opportunities that could help your company grow. With the help of an outside partner, you can unearth ideas that might otherwise go unnoticed by your team.

Creation of Better Products: Partnering with an external innovation partner will help you get more results to assess and test in the market. Getting the perspective of someone outside your company aids in developing better products for your customers. For the best results, work with a partner who has experience with new technologies on the market and can offer fresh insight into your innovation strategy.

Lower Risk of Failure: Risk analysis is essential for every company’s survival. With an innovation partner, you can test more ideas and do so faster, so if one fails, you can swiftly and cost-effectively go on to the next. Your partner’s experience also covers potential blind spots, lowering the risk of your projects failing. They may even be able to advise you not to invest in a high risk opportunity, allowing you to save money and avoid the risk of failure right off the bat. Ultimately, bringing in outside innovation partners reduces your risk of failure.

Creation of Valuable Connections: Establishing long-term and well-aligned corporate networks is critical. External innovation partnerships cultivated through startups grow your network and provide value to your business solutions, allowing you to expand into new industries. Bringing in an external innovation partner also makes you more adaptable to market fluctuations.

What Type of Innovation Partner Would be a Good Fit for Your Company?

There are a variety of innovation partners to pick from, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

1. Agencies & Consultancies

A consultant provides technical expertise to solve specific problems your business is facing. Consultancies often specialize in a specific industry and have years of experience working with other comparable businesses. They’ve seen the ebb and flow of trending products, success stories, and failures, so they usually know the lay of the land better than anyone else.

2. Startups

Entrepreneurs and individuals involved in startups make decent innovation partners because they already have the experience, vision, and innovative drive needed to stand out in a market. Look for entrepreneurs in accelerator programs to boost your chances of creating a successful relationship.

3. Universities

Universities thrive at offering excellent academics with science and technical backgrounds and the lab resources needed to conduct testing. However, they frequently lack “real-world” business experience (i.e., selling to businesses and consumers). Many academic partners overlook the business context of innovative ideas due to a lack of commercial expertise.

4. Crowdsourcing

With crowdsourcing, a company invites industry experts, researchers, and entrepreneurs from all fields to generate new ideas and solutions. The company will offer the innovation partner a prize that is usually money, media coverage, or the chance to partner with or pitch to a relevant corporation. With crowdsourcing, you can kick-start your innovation by harnessing the power of a large group of thinkers.

Companies at various phases of development, including startups, scale-ups, and established worldwide businesses, can benefit from crowdsourcing.

However, keep in mind that ideas obtained through crowdsourcing have little to no quality control or authority. As a result, you’ll be responsible for proof of concept and vetting.

As a result, crowdsourced services aren’t always the greatest choice for innovation partnerships. Rather, they can assist you with initial concept development, assuming you have the human resources or partnerships to carry them through.

Selecting the Right Innovation Partner

As you can already tell, external partnerships benefit your company in various ways. However, you have to find the right partner for a collaboration to work. Here are steps to take to find the perfect innovation partner for your company.

1. Start by Establishing Trust

Step one is to ensure that you trust your potential partner and that your goals are aligned. A relationship built on trust is the basis for mutual support and communication. A good innovation pattern will help you get key stakeholders on board for co-innovation.

You should also remember that you are not in competition with your partner. As partners, you will be sharing resources, both financial and creative. Additionally, your employees should not feel as if they are being pushed to the side or ignored. Instead, inform them of the possible benefits to their productivity and workflow. Make sure they know that a partner is being brought in to lighten the load and make everyone’s work more manageable.

2. Return On Investment (ROI)

When finding an innovation partner, it’s good to figure out whether the partnership will ultimately be a good investment. This can be difficult to gauge when you’re just establishing a relationship, but developing a process for evaluating potential ROI could save a lot of future frustration.

Finding an innovation partner aims to develop a better product that will ultimately boost your growth. Your innovation partner should therefore help you achieve that. Discuss incentives and ROI at the beginning of your discussions with any potential innovation partner. Discuss how collaborating will improve your respective innovation capabilities, bottom lines, and market presence with potential innovation partners.

3. Ask About Pricing

When choosing an innovation partner, it’s good to determine if the partnership will involve a financial commitment. A good partnership will be a cost-effective way to help your business innovate. Figure out what your company can afford, and then find a partner who fits within your budget.

4. Find a Partner Who Meets Your Needs

When choosing a partner, you must first figure out what your company needs from a partner. Is it market research? Experience? Resources? People to do the heavy lifting?

Find out what resources are already within your company, then look for an organization that covers your blind spots.

Final Thoughts

When developing new products and business models, connecting with business partners who can give their influence and knowledge can help you gain a competitive advantage. Finding and fostering a successful partnership isn’t always easy. However, your odds of success are significantly higher when you take the time to find a partner that resonates with your goals, vision, and culture.

At SWARM, our unique model ensures mitigated risk, high growth potential, flawless execution, and strategic collaboration across your organization. Contact us today if you need an innovation partner.