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The Value of Connecting Corporate Leaders with Small Innovators

September 30, 2016 | 5646 Comments

SEP 28, 2016 BY JENNIFER O'DONNELL of Bio NB Posted via Opportunitites NB Blog

Partnerships between large enterprises and small innovative companies, though sometimes unconventional, can be key drivers of business success. Those familiar with BioNB won’t be surprised to see me borrow a concept from the study of biology to demonstrate this point.

In the natural world, symbiosis is the relationship between two types of biological species that live together and depend on each other (think bees distributing pollen while visiting flowers for nectar). Similarly, in the business world, such partnerships between radically different companies can lead to amazing things. Through working together, a startup and a large established company can both achieve things neither could accomplish on their own.

CONNECTING THE LARGE AND THE SMALL

Business is tough, and established businesses can lose the ability to innovate over time, as they become laser-focused on building their established markets and fostering supply chains. New Brunswick is home to several industry leaders in global sectors, most notably in forestry and food. The province is also home to a robust research, development and commercialization ecosystem made up of academic institutions, research institutions and startup companies. These assets present great opportunities for businesses of all sizes to participate in innovation and access key enabling technologies that will lead to business success. We believe that the landscape of these assets is unique to New Brunswick and its features are a real advantage to doing business here.

PARTNERSHIPS IN NEW BRUNSWICK

There have been some interesting recent examples of symbiotic business partnerships taking shape in New Brunswick.

Eigen Innovations and their IT solutions are making resource-based and manufacturing industries much more efficient.

Fiddlehead Technology, a startup founded in 2013 on their capabilities in big data analysis, was propelled forward by a partnership with McCain Foods where they are working to address specific issues within the organization around inventory forecasting.

These are great examples of large industry players looking externally to address challenges they are not equipped to deal with internally. Additionally, the startups involved benefit from validating their technology and bringing in revenue to drive their business models forward.

Partnering between unrelated companies to access technology is a relatively new concept, driven by a need for new business models that enhance competitiveness. We have seen this trend of outsourcing R&D lately in the pharmaceutical and agri-biotech industries; large companies play the role of investors and/or partners to support the growth of early-stage technology companies. The large companies see value in adopting new technologies they could not develop internally, and startups gain financial support for what may be a long path to commercialization. Several of these partnerships might evolve into an industry cluster backed by a few anchor companies to create real economic spin-offs for the community.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?

How can we get more of these synergistic projects off the ground?

Getting these initiatives started is difficult. From the startup’s perspective, it can be difficult to even find a large company’s organizational chart, let alone identify the key individual to talk to about partnerships. Once they get the meeting it can be difficult to make an impact.

From the large company’s perspective, how can they know that they are being presented with a real opportunity? Who within the organization is sufficiently motivated to go out on a limb and work with an unknown startup?

Forming these partnerships is ultimately about developing projects that meet the goals of all the parties involved when these parties most likely have very different objectives, deliverables and day-to-day challenges. A common sense approach that incorporates all the collaborators’ interests will set the stage for success.

NEW BRUNSWICK HAS THE RESOURCES TO FORM THESE PARTNERSHIPS

There are several programs and initiatives in New Brunswick dedicated to supporting these innovative partnerships. These stakeholders have a vested interest in capitalizing on our incredible post-secondary institutions, promoting a culture of entrepreneurship, and ultimately growing the economy.

bionb-logoAt BioNB, we understand those assets unique to New Brunswick, namely our history of innovating in forestry, agriculture and aquaculture, as well as our dynamic startup ecosystem. We use this knowledge to reveal opportunities for our clients and help initiate new projects between large and small companies.

Our support can take a number of forms, including strategic networking, advice on funding and financing, connector events and pitch coaching.

We encourage you to contact BioNB, Venn Innovation (check out their V-lab program), TechImpact or the New Brunswick Business Council to discuss your ideas and expand your network.

Let’s be creative with New Brunswick’s intellectual, business, and natural resource assets.

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