What to do before approaching an incubator as part of an open innovation approach?

– By Jean-Baptiste Leguet



Is your company ready to embark on an open innovation approach and collaborate with startups? Have you identified a startup incubator to support you in this process?


There are still a few preliminary steps to take before you get started!

First of all, before approaching an incubator, your company should consider the following four points:


Validate the commitment of your management team

  • Before implementing your open innovation approach, it's crucial to first obtain the commitment (and not just the approval) of your management team regarding the objectives, the duration of the approach, and the human and financial resources that will be devoted to it.
  • Your open innovation approach must also fit in well with your overall innovation strategy.

Evaluate the prospective incubator

  • To establish an open innovation partnership with an incubator, there are several criteria to consider before making your choice:
  • Its environment: Is the incubator located in a technology hub with links to your company?
  • Reputation: Is it a recognized incubator that attracts the best technology entrepreneurs?
  • Services offered to companies: Does it offer the same program to all its corporate clients, or does it offer customized programs? Is there a team dedicated to supporting companies? Do its services complement your areas of expertise?
  • Relationships: Is it well established in the local, national or international innovation ecosystem? Is it affiliated with a university or research center?
  • Incubated startups: Do they operate in a field related to your projects? What is their stage of maturity?
  • In short, it's essential to select an incubator on the basis of its ability to give you access to the best talent and establish a solid framework for your projects. Keep in mind that the number of corporate clients it supports is not necessarily an indicator of service quality.

Do your homework in-house

  • To facilitate partnership discussions with an incubator, your team should first establish its innovation objectives and gather information such as:
  • Problems encountered within your business units for which there is a viable technological solution;
  • A list of emerging technologies that offer innovation potential for your company and industry;
  • A budget estimate for projects to be developed with startups;
  • A budget estimate for international calls for projects aimed at startups;
  • A few names of incubated startups you'd like to meet;
  • Examples of corporate innovation projects that inspire you.

Specify the desired mode of collaboration

  • Every company has different needs when it comes to open innovation. Some companies already have a well-established open innovation approach and would like external support in qualifying startups or monitoring projects. Other companies have a high-performance R&D approach and would like support in setting up an open innovation process.
  • You need to ensure that all aspects of your collaboration with the incubator match your company's reality. For example, the frequency of follow-up meetings and the involvement of innovation management, R&D and marketing staff are all factors for consideration.


In all cases, the mode of collaboration must be adapted to your needs, so that the partner incubator can become an ally in helping you connect with startups and ensure the success of your innovation projects!     

Want to learn more about open innovation?