Open Innovation Partnership Leads to Novel Freight Container Device

Published Aug-01-16

Breakthrough:
IBM Denmark formed an open innovation partnership with a strategic customer, and together they created a unique container monitoring device.

Company:
IBM Denmark, Denmark

The Story:

Open Innovation Partnership Leads to Novel Freight Container Device IBM Denmark is a Danish technology and consulting company that delivers IT services and markets hardware and software products that in the main are developed by its research and development laboratories. Although it has thousands of employees, IBM recognizes the value of working with external knowledge sources for new ideas and to give the company competencies that it wouldn't have been able to build themselves.

For IBM Denmark, open innovation is when it involves customers, business partners, universities, research institutions and other outsiders in innovation processes. But it's not a one-way street as IBM provides its external partners with their knowledge as well as selling their patents and innovations.

Working with a Strategic Customer

One such example of a fruitful open innovation partnership was when its global competency center on logistics teamed up with Maersk, a Danish business conglomerate and a strategic customer of IBM.

Periodically, IBM forms value creation centers with its strategic customers, bringing together employees of both parties. Together they look at problems they can solve through innovation. This is not innovation for innovation's sake, but a way of answering very specific needs.

During one get-together with Maersk it emerged that monitoring of containers was something that could be improved, specifically to meet demands from the American government. This was an area that IBM had been looking at, but it decided to exchange some of the ideas and IP rights they had with Maersk. The two entities merged their IP rights and made a joint development project.

Novel Device

Through this open innovation partnership, IBM Denmark and Maersk came up with a global container monitoring solution that had never been seen before. It involved a device that can be placed on a containers and that communicates in numerous ways, providing a raft of information. For example, the device can tell American authorities where the container is at any one moment, if it has been opened or shaken and if there are any dangerous items inside.

Approximately 50 people worked on the project. They included some of Maersk's telecommunications experts, employees from IBM's ODIS (ON Demand Innovation Services) and small companies with similar demands for the container technology that was ultimately developed.

Openness is Part of the Culture

IBM has a long history of working with external partners to develop new technologies. When it engages in open innovation initiatives with other companies it does so only when it is sure that extra value will be created and that its partners will bring competencies or technologies that it doesn't have.

IBM Denmark says it is not a company that suffers from 'not invented here' syndrome and that's primarily because working with partners is integrated into the company's culture. It therefore expects to be working on many more open innovation projects in the future.

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