Open Innovation and Nokia – A Good Match?

by Stefan Lindegaard

Nokia Open SourceI have always respected Nokia which I consider to be a quite innovative company. Lately, I have been wondering how they approach open innovation so I did some research on their activities.

First, let’s take a look at how Nokia defined open innovation in a presentation given by Kari-Pekka Estola, VP, Nokia Research Center in 2007.

“The sourcing, integration, and development of product and business system innovations through win-win external partnerships to capture maximum commercial value for R&D investment.”

Kari-Pekka Estola also argued that open innovation is a critical trend and not yet another management fad due to these reasons:

  • Innovation happens in smaller companies, global innovation hotspots and increasingly influential user communities.
  • Several factors such as workforce mobility and venture capital are eroding the ability of corporate research labs to contain their useful knowledge.
  • A new breed of independent research labs create a new source of R&D development.
  • “Innomediaries” – innovation intermediaries – are enabling an increasingly active and distributed market for ideas.

As it shows, Nokia had a pretty good understanding of open innovation early on. They also execute fairly well. Let’s take a look at their many open innovation-like initiatives:

Nokia Research Center is the hub of their open innovation efforts. It is very much focused on selective and deep research collaborations with world-leading institutions.

Open Threads is a newsletter by Nokia Research Center on open innovation. In the latest issue 2/09, the Nokia IPR team began a series of articles aimed at clarifying the basics of IPR and explaining how open innovation collaborators can engage with Nokia. Worth checking out!

Forum Nokia exists to serve everyone who is interested in the creation, testing, or business of mobile applications, content, or services. Forum Nokia provides several entry points for companies interested in developing new offerings with Nokia or towards to the mobile community.

Symbian. Last year, Nokia bought Symbian and then gave away the software code to the non-profit Symbian Foundation. In Why Nokia Bought Symbian, Then Gave It Away, Scott Anthony of Innosight, presents some good views on why this happened.

The Maemo platform. Dutch innovation consultants, Fronteer, recently mentioned that they will help Nokia on their work with Maemo which is an open source software platform with over 16,000 members. Fronteer mentions that Nokia in previous projects developed ideas and concepts with a selected group of lead-users and experts in a co-creation sessions. This time, they will take it a step further: they will share their ideas and concepts with the complete Maemo Community, both online and off-line, to collaboratively develop new Maemo concepts.

Although, I think Nokia overall does quite well there are a couple of issues that I would like to learn more about.

  • External contributions in the later stages of their innovation process. Their open innovation initiatives primarily focus on technology and the early phases of generating new product and service offerings. Open innovation should include key external contributions in all phases of the innovation process; not just in the technology or idea development phases. I had difficulties finding information on how or if Nokia does this.
  • Beyond technology. Nokia has a Corporate Business Development unit that looks for breakthrough ideas that are ‘industry shakers’ – innovative business concepts and technologies – that integrate with and expand beyond Nokia core business.

Nokia Open InnovationHaving validated new opportunities with sound business cases, Corporate Business Development further develop them as new business programs within Nokia or collaborate with companies to establish licensing deals, joint ventures, acquisitions, or partnership agreements. It sounds interesting. However, I have difficulties finding information on how this unit defines and approaches open innovation and how they work together with Nokia Research Center on open innovation. Maybe they don’t?

Nokia definitely appears as a technology-focused company and Nokia Research Center is all about research collaborations with world-leading institutions. Perhaps there could be a stronger link to the business community?

Nokia might already be doing the things I would like to learn more about. Hopefully, I will soon get the chance to discuss this with innovation leaders at Nokia. Until then, it would be great to hear your input and comments on this.


Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.

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  1. Though I have never worked with Nokia Research, as an external consultant for Nokia Corporate I must tell you that this company is run by MBAs and lawyers who have no appreciation for groundbreaking technology ideas, but rather focus on handset shipments and market share. The NRC does produce a lot of exciting technology prototypes but for one reason or another they very rarely get implemented in actual product roadmap.

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