Corporate venturing: fresh ideas thanks to cross-fertilisation

Tomorrow is Today

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Every new innovation seems to belong to the realm of start-ups, whether it concerns technology from Silicon Valley or a cool marketing trend. Small, fresh and above all versatile companies launch them quickly and immediately try to change the world. Large companies are not always able to keep up. A partnership is a must.

“Cross-fertilisation usually yields the best ideas.”

Guido Vandervorst, Managing Partner Innovation

In a world where innovation largely determines the success of companies, ideas are very important. But, says Guido Vandervorst, Managing Partner Innovation at consulting firm Deloitte: “The best ideas usually come about by cross-fertilisation between a large company and a smaller enterprise.”


“The best ideas are usually not found in large companies,” explains Guido Vandervorst, “because they're not versatile. They come from start-ups who have nothing to lose.” This is an important reason why partnerships offer such advantages for large companies, particularly when it concerns innovation that can disrupt an entire industry. “A company hardly ever succeeds in disrupting an entire industry. Often new technologies are curbed internally in large companies, because they are afraid of cannibalisation,” explains Sam Sluismans. That is why for Sluismans it is often better to remove these 'dangerous' ideas from the company. “A start-up does not mind upending the market. As a large company, you can support one of these start-ups and then you will also know how to respond to it,” he says.

The best ideas come from start-ups who have nothing to lose


“The same principles apply to us,” admits Guido Vandervorst: “We're a large company and we want to keep growing. That is the reason behind our Innovation Centre. We want to be close to these start-ups and support them.” The partnership between a large company and a start-up is referred to as ‘corporate venturing’. The underlying idea is that both companies collaborate, but stay independent. “For large companies it is a way to get to know innovative technologies, without having to invent them,” says Sam Sluismans. “This collaboration puts them close to the innovation, without immediately having to invest in, for instance, a technology that may or may not be relevant.” In turn, the start-ups get the support of a big brother, with a network and knowledge of the market. “For start-ups it is a way to grow. It opens the door to new opportunities”, says Guido Vandervorst.

Building expertise

Often these partnerships are about gathering knowledge and talent. A company such as Janssen Pharmaceutica, for instance, has to develop new medication and healthcare models. It needs the necessary scientific and technological knowledge for this, and looks for it both inside and outside its own company. This is also why Janssen Pharmaceutica launched its own corporate venturing project, explains Tom Aelbrecht, Venture & Innovation Centre Director at Janssen Pharmaceutica: “It allows us to support start-up companies in the health sector and provide scientific expertise. And for us it is a way to make contacts and establish partnerships with innovative companies.”

Collaborate to innovate

You find these partnerships in all industries, explains Vandervorst: “It is not always about technology. A large company may also be looking for start-ups to introduce new business models.” Sam Sluismans agrees: “Companies, particularly large companies, are constantly looking for ways to grow.” He says: “They could try to make their product sexier, for instance. They can introduce new technologies or offer a new customer experience through a partnership.” For this they are always looking for new, good ideas. “And not all good ideas come from your own company,” says Sluismans: “If this is the case, you collaborate.”

Not all good ideas come from your own company

De Standaard (30/3)

Samenwerken voor betere ideeën

Innovatie lijkt wel het terrein van start-ups: kleine, wendbare bedrijfjes die voluit voor een fris idee gaan. Grote ondernemingen kunnen niet altijd even snel volgen. Een samenwerking dient zich aan.

Published: 30 March 2015
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