How do open innovation consortia work? Alan’s case

There was a time when each company rowed on its own. Whether it was more or less competition and from more or less similar sectors, the collaborations were something more superficial than a decision with an impact on the company. But that’s history. If something has changed in the business ecosystem in recent years, it is the importance that alliances have acquired to share knowledge and experiences. At a time when technology advances every day, open innovation consortia are the tip of the iceberg of these alliances. The last one comes from the hand of Telefónica. Under the Alaian name, six companies have come together to connect their open innovation systems. An impact that reaches 50 countries and 700 million customers.

The objective of the consortia is to share concepts in terms of innovation. But they are also the point of union between startups, small and medium sized companies, and large companies. Alaian’s mantra is the same as that promoted by other alliances like this: to show that there is strength in unity. In this case, Telefónica has joined the telcos Bouygues Telecom, Cellnex, KPN, MTN and WINDTRE to promote the development of 5G and its implementation in sectors such as the environment or health.

The telcos that make up Alaian will not do it alone. In addition to collaborating with each other, the consortium has launched a call to search for innovative companies in this regard. Experts and innovators on 5G and how it will affect Web3 or the metaverse. The objective of this union is to reach where they cannot and take advantage of the ideas of entrepreneurs. Telcos such as Telefónica are committed to their R&D department to keep up to date with innovations and new technologies. But it can be strenuous work. Collaboration with startups is the way to access new ideas and technological proposals.

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Alan for startups

Startups don’t lose out. Consortiums such as Alaian will allow them to form part of a group that has the capacity to compete with large players in the sector. Again, the mantra that together they are stronger. Ana Landeta, an expert in and Director of International Relations at CEF UDIMA, shares this concept and agrees that the highlight of this type of alliance is shared knowledge. “Volumes of relevant knowledge are going to be generated,” she comments in an interview.

Although he acknowledges that open innovation consortia are not something new, he stresses that it now makes sense for companies to sign up to these agreements. “Europe is financing many lines aimed at technological innovation and specific companies such as startups”, he highlights.

In this context, open innovation is almost a necessity for companies. Traditionally, innovation was the trend within the business world and R&D projects were not shared with players in the sector. Everything stayed at home. The concept of open innovation has been developing for years but it was the professor at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business who gave the name.

It was at this university in California where cooperation in the field of innovation began to be given more value. This is the tactic to create innovative ecosystems and shows that valuable knowledge is that which is shared. The monopolies of development and knowledge are part of the past. No matter how successful or disruptive the company is, no matter how good its R&D department is, it is important that it is part of the networks of influence and innovation within your industry. In addition to the evolution of business models, it is in times of economic crisis that these alliances can be made the most of. At the beginning of open innovation was the economic crisis that hit Europe at the beginning of 2010. Now, the current situation of instability due to inflation, the economic recession and the war in Ukraine offers new opportunities in this regard.

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Open innovation to share knowledge

With Alaian, Telefónica and the other telcos, in addition to sharing knowledge with the startups, they will also get feedback to share experiences. A situation that one telco has not faced may already be an old acquaintance for another. Open innovation is related to all kinds of sectors; In the case of this consortium, it will focus above all on the development of the 5G network.

It is less and less unknown to the population, but the challenges for telcos are important enough for a consortium like Alaian to help solve some unknowns. Agustín Moro, head of Business Development and Open Innovation at Telefónica, pointed out in an interview with RTVE that the number of terminals still has to grow so that this technology reaches the population in a massive way.

There will be more and more technological services and tools that need high bandwidth, automation and robotization that require a rapid response from the network. These services and tools are in many aspects of our daily lives. 5G, for example, improves experiences within gaming and, of course, the new and famous metaverse. It is also key for smart homes or autonomous driving. We can find hundreds of examples of the relevance of 5G that demonstrate the importance of accessibility and penetration.

The deployment of networks

For Ana Landeta, the challenge lies not only in the deployment of 5G but also in the integration of the network into business models. “A possible innovation challenge begins with the operation of artificial intelligence in companies. Although startups are born with the DNA of technology, they now have to gain speed and adapt to the changes derived from emerging technologies such as AI”.

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Regarding the implementation of 5G, beyond the need for large, medium and small companies, it is one of the points within the Recovery and Resilience Plan. “It is quite reasonable and consistent that they have raised it as one of the objectives of the alliance, because our recovery plans point to that being the case,” Landeta points out.

Telefónica wants to take advantage of all the opportunities that come. The ones that they can take advantage of if they unite and work together for a common development. Alaian is only the first step in the efforts for the deployment of 5G in a context in which 6G is already beginning to be talked about. For now, a phenomenon that is still in its infancy but that promises a more inclusive internet in which all the senses will play. It will no longer be just seeing and hearing, but also perceiving. There are many unknowns and doubts about 6G, but the shared knowledge of consortiums like Alaian can make things a little easier.