Leading innovation ecosystems — leading complexity
Solving big and complex global challenges in urbanisation, climate change and healthcare calls for innovative and disruptive solutions. These can be achieved only through close cooperation across different industries and disciplines. To succeed in such cooperation, special skills in leadership are in key role. To find out what kind of skills are required for successful leadership of multi-partner projects and innovation ecosystems, we turned to our experienced Ecosystem Leader Markku Heino.
In order to understand a business ecosystem, a network of organisations, including suppliers, distributors, customers, competitors and even government agencies, one needs experience. Markku started his career at Spinverse in an extensive Functional Materials Programme, which aimed at building new multi-disciplinary expertise in materials technology for the Finnish industry. At the same time, he started building partnerships between private and public organisations in two other programs focused around metal and engineering industries. These innovation programs have shown great results with high impact both in science and industry.
Current assignments follow the same path. During the past four years, Markku has been active on large innovation ecosystems related to smart city and data-driven health care with big players such as Nokia and HUS. Let's have a closer look at the the learnings the past decade has brought.
How to lead a complex project or ecosystem
Based on Markku’s experience, to succeed in the role of ecosystem leader, some level of substance expertise and understanding of the matters at hand is always good, but genuine interest in the topic and communication skills are the key. Crystallising the joint vision and ensuring it is shared and understood among all stakeholders is one of the first tasks. The leader acts as a neutral player who helps to set the ambitious joint targets but is also a good listener, understanding the needs of different partners. An important aspect in all joint activities is to identify the right challenges (“questions worth solving”) and core players with well-defined roles to be able to tackle those. This is where Spinverse brings in value by ensuring these requirements are brought to the project in the right balance.
“Cooperation does not take place between organisations — it is done between people. Engaging people in the joint work and establishing an atmosphere of trust and enthusiasm enable real cooperation which at best, leads to great results."
A carefully constructed project with a solid base already at its initial stage is the key to success. With good management thrown in, it is ensured that the set targets are achieved. Well defined project management procedures, rules of the game and access to all the necessary tools are basic requirements, but the roles and commitment of partners are crucial.
Markku says: “Commitment and trust plays an important role in successful projects. The difference between a normal project and a good one is made in the way we play the game together.”
“Cooperation does not take place between organisations — it is done between people. Engaging people in the joint work and establishing an atmosphere of trust and enthusiasm enable real cooperation which at best, leads to great results. Communication on all levels forms a key part of a successful leadership,” he emphasizes as learnings in his own work.
Growth through ecosystems - LuxTurrim5G and CleverHealth Network as prime examples
The role of the ecosystem leader is to have the overall understanding of complex entities and to bring balance as a neutral facilitator. Tackling the big picture in a controlled manner is important but at the same time, attention to detailed problem-solving on grassroot level is needed, too. When the leader displays full commitment, a positive spiral of enthusiasm within the project is established and is bound to spread among the stakeholders, resulting in great things.
For the past three years, Markku has been leading the LuxTurrim5G ecosystem that started in 2016 with Nokia and 14 partners. It develops fast 5G network to cities based on smart light poles equipped with 5G antennas and a set of different sensors, thus forming the digital backbone of future smart cities.
"What started as development of smart light poles now involves building a platform for connectivity and digital services for smart city including e.g. autonomous buses, drones, location services, last-mile logistics, public safety, city planning, regulation and new business and operating models."
Markku sees LuxTurrim5G as an example of a positive circle. It has expanded into new projects like a tree sprouting new growth: one project has now grown into a larger ecosystem with 26 active partners working hand-in-hand towards common goals, and a wider group of external stakeholders linked to the cooperation. What started as development of smart light poles now involves building a platform for connectivity and digital services for smart city including e.g. autonomous buses, drones, location services, last-mile logistics, public safety, city planning, regulation and new business and operating models. This includes a lot of partners from diverse industries and disciplines. Success made through good cooperation is like a magnet in which everyone wants to participate. This is what ecosystems at best are all about.
CleverHealth Network coordinated by Helsinki University Hospital (HUS) in turn is an ecosystem where the top-notch clinicians from HUS and experts from prominent Finnish and global pharma, medtech, data and technology companies utilise health care data to develop better health care solutions for Finns and successful export products for the companies. This drives health care revolution combining the opportunities of artificial intelligence and deep clinical expertise to make game-changing solutions for diagnostics and treatments, e.g. regarding acute leukemia, rare diseases, brain injuries, gestational diabetes and home dialysis.
Veturi by Business Finland challenges large companies to drive the ecosystems
The ongoing funding instrument competition by Business Finland, Veturi, is a nice example on how large and global companies are challenged to drive building of mission-driven ecosystems with companies, research institutes and other stakeholders of varying sizes and disciplines. The goal is to activate particularly large companies to significantly increase their investments in R&D&I activities in Finland aiming for new global business worth billions of euros. A total of 60 M€ has been earmarked in 2020 for this one-off opportunity. It is exciting to see how this evolves and what kind of new ecosystems we will see in the future.
A total of 60 M€ has been earmarked in 2020 for this one-off opportunity. It is exciting to see how this evolves and what kind of new ecosystems we will see in the future.
To sum up, these ambitious multi-party activities need professional building and leadership skills to make the brave plans materialise in concrete actions and lead to results with expected impact. That is where Spinverse experts bring high added value.