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PARK INNOVAARE uses a specially developed Innovation Case Pyramid

Author: Nils Gebhardt, Villigen

In its efforts promoting innovation, PARK INNOVAARE is able to rely on the unique infrastructure of the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) with its large research facilities and highly qualified people. Based on this unique feature and the knowledge derived from it, PARK INNOVAARE is implementing its case-oriented innovation and investment acquisition strategy.

At the beginning of every innovation is a market need – for example, the desire for a product that is technically better, such as a new imaging method for mammography. Many of the research results obtained at PSI – with its more than 2,000 employees, many of whom are researchers, working in more than 70 laboratories – could be developed into marketable products. But not all of them have the potential. To find out whether there is a chance of commercially launching a product, PARK INNOVAARE reviews this potential. This review requires the following elements:

  • Current research projects or results in a field within one of the PARK INNOVAARE focus areas (accelerator technology, advanced materials and processes, humans and health, energy).
  • A clearly formulated concept that describes the thrust of the industrial use or commercialization of this specific research result.
  • Need on the part of the industry. One or more industrial partners must be willing to engage in specific dialogue.
  • The willingness of the scientist(s) involved or their group to support the project.

It is in this manner that two high-tech companies have already emerged at PARK INNOVAARE: Advanced Accelerator Technologies AG and leadXpro AG. Other projects are currently being developed the same way. In the field of radiopharmaceutical diagnosis and therapy, another company is on the verge of being established. In total, there are today more than eleven companies that have set up operations at PARK INNOVAARE. Our site development is thus gaining momentum.

Business skill and intuition

No one can predict whether – or which – cases will be successful on the market later on. This risk is inherent in every innovation. But to minimize the risk, PARK INNOVAARE relies on its business skill in the preliminary phase and has planned a balanced case portfolio designed for efficient risk management. In supporting the defined innovation cases, we attach great importance to a high degree of service orientation.

Three-stage “Case Pyramid”

To build a sufficiently large, differentiated portfolio of innovation cases as quickly as possible, we have developed a three-stage model: the Case Pyramid. With the pyramid, we use current experience from the international practices of innovation and technology management. At the top of the Pyramid are few, but large-scale, initiatives. These are innovation cases that are relatively mature and could play a key role with regard to our site development.

PARK INNOVAARE is currently investing significant resources in the following areas:

We manage the implementation of these initiatives in three stages that run in a coordinated fashion, in sequence:

  • In the concept phase, we work together with scientists and/or industrial partners to describe the potential benefits of an innovation with regard to its commercialization. This phase also serves to identify any existing blind spots.
  • In the ensuing contact phase, we bring the right people to one table. At workshops, also attended by external experts and potential partners, we perform another validation.
  • In the subsequent coordination phase, we ensure the financing of the project, for example by utilizing evaluations made at a national level.

In the middle of our Case Pyramid, we involve the growing PARK INNOVAARE network to lead the projects to success. The PARK INNOVAARE sponsors, including the 35 – mostly industrial – shareholders, as well as other business partners in the environment are brought in. Using surveys and in bilateral discussions, we find out more about research interests and partner requests. In this phase, we establish contact between the relevant research areas and representatives of the participating industry or else of other locations of our umbrella organization Switzerland Innovation. The second stage of the Innovation Case Pyramid thus serves to activate the innovation ecosystem of PARK INNOVAARE.

The third stage of the Case Pyramid assumes a broader scope and tries to take the potential for future innovation cases into account in all the development stages. In this regard, there is already a regular exchange with those responsible for the technology transfer of the Paul Scherrer Institute, but also of the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), which has tremendous expertise in application-oriented materials research. The potential innovation cases are observed, processed and discussed with the sponsors of PARK INNOVAARE, stakeholders and other interested parties, without any special methodology.

Guiding principle: active networking of all parties involved

We mainly invest time, but we are also able to call in external advisors as needed. These resources are distributed to the existing projects within the three stages of the Case Pyramid, depending on the implementation horizon. The operational key principle here is to actively network all the players involved. A study conducted by management consultancy McKinsey has brought to light that the networking between established companies, start-ups and politics plays a crucial role in setting up innovation sites1.

In addition, a large-scale investigation of the European Commission2 has shown that successful science and technology parks act less as landlords and floor space managers. Rather, they act as highly agile networking and marketing organizations that feel directly committed to the business success of their residents. This is also the logic followed by PARK INNOVAARE.

1 Suder, Katrin: Berlin starts businesses Five initiatives for Europe's Start-up Metropolises [article in German], Berlin 2013, page 19f

2European Commission: Setting Up, Managing and Evaluating EU science and technology parks, Luxembourg 2014, page 88

Nils Gebhardt, Managing Director PARK INNOVAARE

Nils Gebhardt, Managing Director PARK INNOVAARE

This is the third part of a four-part series of articles on the site development at PARK INNOVAARE. The first and second parts of the series deal with the starting situation and the objectives at the site. An interview with the author on current developments will conclude the series.

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