What is an Innovation Network?

Key factor for the future competitiveness of a company

Innovation networks support continuous improvement, the idea management, and the innovation management of a company. They enhance the innovation process and are an integral part of an innovation culture. Innovation networks also play an important role in digitalization.

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An innovation network is an organizational structure with which enterprises implement business innovation faster and more efficiently. Innovation networks exist within companies or across companies.

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Advantages of an innovation network

The establishment of an innovation network makes it possible to introduce different points of view into the development of an innovation, to quickly make the necessary resources available and to transfer new discoveries faster into a company or organization.

The implementation of an innovation network has three major advantages:

  • Increasing the diversity of ideas: Different perspectives influence idea generation and idea evaluation. An innovation network, in which, for example, marketing, production, sales and development are represented, develops ideas that contain inspiration from all these perspectives. If, for example, an innovation network is expanded to include external experts or customers, this helps to overcome the so-called “blinkered view”.

Innovation Network

Innovation network in a company


    • Efficiency advantages: Innovation networks can be set up quickly and agilely, e.g. to meet current innovation challenges. The members of an innovation network often fulfil their role in the innovation network parallel to their actual function in the company. For example, they contribute their special knowledge of methodologies, act as innovation coaches or have special technical expertise. Not all members of innovation networks work continuously on innovation projects. But they form a supporting circle around teams. This increases the development and implementation speed of innovations.

    • Innovation networks promote the innovation culture: Current knowledge and current trends are introduced by members of innovation networks into an enterprise. Innovation is thus embodied more deeply within an organization. The establishment of an innovation network or several innovation networks has a correspondingly positive effect on the innovative capabilities of companies.

Innovation networks increase the ability of companies to act with both hands, i.e. to efficiently implement the existing as well as to develop new ideas. In science it is called the principle of “ambitextry”.

State-of-the-art technologies such as Innolytics® idea management software and innovation management software support the establishment of innovation networks. Within companies, employees are invited to commit themselves to innovation. They complete a profile with their expertise and are temporarily or permanently involved in innovation projects. The current status of all innovation projects can be tracked via the platform. In addition, ideas can be discussed, evaluated and deepened collaboratively.

Establishing an innovation network

Innovation networks can be built within a company or by involving external parties. When innovation networks open up, this is called Open Innovation and Co-creation.

This is how you set up innovation networks:

  • Find initiators: Innovation networks depend on the commitment of individuals who build and maintain these networks long-term. Look for people in your company or organization who enjoy building and maintaining networks. Ideally, these are people who already have an cross-divisional network. In one of our projects, for example, this was an employee from the human resources department who knew all managers personally.

  • Start small: Start, for example, with an innovation workshop or an internal event on the topic. Send the invitation to everyone who is potentially interested in ideas and innovations. Events can also be further training courses – for example on innovation methods. Experience has shown that participants in such activities are likely to become enthusiastic about an innovation network very quickly.

  • Inform your innovation network regularly: For example, initiate a biweekly or monthly newsletter in which you describe three to four important trends for your company or industry. On the Innolytics® innovation platform you can publish these newsletters in the form of blog articles.

  • Involve members regularly: Ask questions, ask for feedback. A regular activation of the members of your innovation network ensures that it remains vibrant. The Innolytics software offers various functions for this purpose, such as the possibility of commenting on ideas.

  • Expand your innovation network step by step: For example, organize idea competitions on various topics. Encourage employees to suggest ideas for answering questions about the future. Idea contests give you a quick overview of which members of your organization would like to get involved in the topic.

  • As a final step or as an expanding measure, you can invite customers and external parties into your innovation network. Such networks serve to exchange technical know-how in special fields within companies. Companies can set up an Open Innovation Community for this purpose.

Software supports innovation networks

The Innolytics® Innovation Management Software and Idea Management Software supports companies and organizations in building, establishing and using innovation networks. The software offers the possibility to establish different networks on one platform.

  • For example, an innovation network dealing with the optimization of internal processes can be set up at various locations.
  • At the same time, an innovation network on the subject of digitalization can include employees from several locations and different specialist departments.
  • An innovation network for sales can be promoted by selected members of these divisions and supplemented by external experts or customers.

The software offers the possibility to control the visibility of information. For example, external parties involved in projects can only see the information that is relevant to them and that the company wants to communicate to the outside world. All other information remains hidden.

The software also offers the opportunity to develop ideas and establish innovation processes, discuss ideas and evaluate them from different perspectives. Working groups and teams can be formed out of an innovation network to advance individual ideas and implement them step by step through an innovation roadmap.

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