Conglomerate Reaps Benefits of Open Innovation

Published Nov-29-16

A handheld non-invasive medical device for swift diagnosis of cardiovascular problems.

John Keells PLC, Sri Lanka

The Story:

Conglomerate Reaps Benefits of Open Innovation Let's say you are a company or organization that wants to know what is going to be the next biggest thing or in which direction your industry is heading, what can you do? Sure you can do your own reading and research and consult your internal experts, but you can also tap into the smarts of outsiders for some fresh perspectives. That's exactly what John Keells Holdings PLC decided to do when it launched its inaugural John Keells X Open Innovation Challenge.

This huge Sri Lankan-headquartered conglomerate sought world-class innovations that would be able to disrupt traditional business models and open new markets, preferably linked to any of its existing business interests.

While this was a no-strings attached open innovation contest, John Keells Group hoped that their initiative would provide an opportunity to partner with great startups and fund other commercial ventures.

Healthy Response

The open innovation challenge was launched in June 2016 and ran for four months. During this time 148 submissions where made which were shortlisted to ten. The ideas, which all had to be viable were a mixture of commercially launched business which were being further developed, existing models re-imagined and new solutions to fill prevailing gaps.

The ten finalists were then given a 60-day development window where they benefited from access to mentors and relevant industry experts across the conglomerate's businesses.

Open Innovation Winners

The winning team was Jendo Innovations, picking up a 2-million rupee prize (approximately $USD 13,500) for Jendo. This is a handheld non-invasive device that can screen for cardiovascular diseases by monitoring endothelial function (the pathological state of the inner lining of blood vessels).

The runner up, Markify received 1 Million rupees. Their invention is a speech-driven, SaaS analytics and data searching service. Explaining the analytics innovation to Daily FT, Sahan Dharmaraja, said:

“Whether it’s from data you’ve already acquired or whether you want something from Amazon or eBay, Facebook or Twitter, just tell it what you want. It’ll find it, it’ll bring it over and it will analyze it for you.”

Wider Open Innovation Adoption

What the competition has done for John Keells is brought to its attention many innovative and fledgling startups that it might not have otherwise come into contact with. And in the open innovation contest's terms and condition it has the first right of negotiation and refusal to purchase solutions submitted to the challenge.

Susantha Ratnayake, Chairman of John Keells Holdings PLC commenting on the open innovation challenge, said:

"The JKH leadership is also encouraged by the pool of young entrepreneurial talent we witnessed during the four month engagement with John Keells X, and we look forward to continuing to support the Sri Lankan start-up eco system, by incentivizing and investing in the talented young entrepreneurs in the country."

The competition was also part of a wider John Keells program to create an ecosystem in which young entrepreneurs can thrive whilst encouraging its own businesses to engage in open innovation activities and approaches.

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