Allied forces


By Emelie Hegarty, Communications Manager, Upstate SC Alliance

Open innovation and collaboration continue to enhance Upstate ventures


The story is woven through history: Groups with common objectives band together to win. The reasons to join forces may be related to geography, raw materials, technology or trade routes. The process and motivations for coalitions are just as applicable to today’s business as in early tribes: combine individual strengths toward a common interest.

Whether called “Open Innovation,” “Trade in Tasks” or “Made in the World,” more and more joint ventures, M&As and special alliances are forming to increase efficiencies, access new technologies or drive global market share. Firms may network to solve a particular problem, for instance a supply chain problem, but once established, these networks provide a tried-and-true platform of trust that can be leveraged for tackling larger innovation challenges.


An ever-growing family of collaborators


Since BMW established its North American manufacturing headquarters in Spartanburg, an ever-growing family of automotive suppliers has co-located facilities in the area. It goes without saying that a close relationship ensures deadlines are being met, but the often-overlooked value lies in face-to-face collaborative discussions. The relationship between a premium manufacturer like BMW, and its many area suppliers, fosters a collaborative partnership that accelerates innovation, ensures the highest-quality parts and produces the high value that the brand demands.

The pattern plays out around the world as companies increase their reach and presence in foreign markets. The emergence of global supply value chains that extend from OEMs to suppliers to service providers are increasingly driving important collaborations.

In her research for the Foreign Direct Investment Plan, Upstate SC Alliance’s Elizabeth Feather reported, “Companies like Boeing and BMW are developing deep relationships with their top-tier suppliers, solving problems together that affect production on a global scale. …The Upstate manufacturing region is strengthened by the ability of our local companies to work together to solve problems and enhance production.”


Open innovation unlocks significant value


Another term for this kind of collaborative problem solving is open innovation.

Feather’s research reported this interesting statistic: 67 percent of U.S. companies own technology assets that they fail to exploit. About US $100 billion is tied up in the idle innovation portfolios of big companies. So, working with outside companies could unlock significant value.

In 2011 Honeywell and Chinese appliance manufacturer Haier Group signed a memorandum to jointly develop and promote low-emission and high-efficiency household appliance solutions. “More than 50 percent of our product portfolio is related to energy and energy-efficiency,” said Shane Tedjarati, CEO of Honeywell China and India. “We believe our expertise in energy-efficiency, automation and controls could help Haier manufacture products that will benefit both customers and the environment.”

Honeywell announced the use of energy-efficient, closed-cell foam insulation that reduces carbon dioxide emissions while complying with strict U.S. Department of Energy standards. Shariff Kan, president of Haier America, said the agreement with Honeywell would enable the company to explore solutions that mutually benefit both Chinese and American consumers.

Collaborations with universities are important as well. Clemson University is involved with innovative companies like Milliken, Michelin, BMW, Greenville Hospital System and Sealed Air in material sciences and biosciences; driving high-value solutions that build a globally strong reputation for innovation in the region, particularly with its advanced materials. Regional applied research extends beyond advanced materials and into biomedical engineering. Both CUBE and Greenville Hospital System’s clinical university indicate a broader innovation ecosystem that encompasses healthcare.

Partner networks are a vital component of an innovation ecosystem and an obvious benefit for technology and economic prosperity.

The Upstate SC Alliance has committed to connect regional talent bases and describe centers of excellence. By bundling specialty talent, it will educate the world about how SC is a world-class place to conduct research and invest in industry.


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