11.1.4 How are Innovation Networks built up?

Central success factors for building up a network are, above all, the selection of the partners and the relations they form towards each other (promoting factors).

Now it’s your turn! The implementation of the following points is a basic requirement for the success of innovation networks. Please use the following table as a checklist when forming your own network. You should consider all the points stated below to have a sustainable network!
Table 2 "Key points of innovation network building"1

Central success factors for building up a network are, above all, the selection of the partners and the relations they form towards each other (promoting factors).

Why don’t you try to establish an innovation network in your own sector? Consider the promoting factors and discuss it with one of your main partners. Why don’t you start checking conditions for your own innovative network by following the next points: joint targets, ability of the cooperating partners to communicate and to learn, ability to take up and to disseminate information, ability to react to difficult situations of the partners, similar problem-solving approach and problem-solving competence, voluntary cooperation, economic advantages from the cooperation for all partners involved, development of innovation relevant environmental links, linking of resources and exploitation of cooperation.

In contrast to the promoting factors described above, the following list will give you possible reasons (hindering factors) that may contribute to the decline of an innovation network.
Please consider these points when establishing a network in order to prevent its failure as best as you can.2

  • different aims and strategies
  • lack of identification (on a personal level) with the aims of cooperation
  • varying interest and power potential in a network that may lead to an unequal  distribution of resources
  • opportunist behaviour of individual network players
  • too large a number of network participants making the network difficult to survey
  • exaggerated need for harmony and a trend towards avoidance of conflicts, exclusion of competition among network participants counteract the original intention - they  inhibit innovation rather than promote it

The following illustration shows an overview (from the point of view of an individual enterprise) and of the partners that should be considered when thinking of establishing an innovation network.

In this case a network with as wide as possible base should be aimed at - partners from the most different systems offer a large number of opportunities for mutual knowledge and know-how exchange, thus creating a framework for an innovation promoting atmosphere.

 Figure3: The innovation enterprises3

Think of your own region! According to Figure 3 try to draw a similar figure beginning with the ‘innovating enterprise’ in the middle as if it was your enterprise and name the institutions and organisations which could be your partners in networking in your region.

1 http://www.forfas.ie/media/forfas040624_innovation_networks.pdf
2 InnoSupport: Supporting Innovations in SME. 11. Innovation Networks. 2005
3 lbid