25 June 2019

Innovation platforms and open labs: to create and innovate?


This is the subject of an interesting exploratory study conducted in 2018 by the Innovation Factory,” a network of French companies working for innovation in the digital sector. Through its model of collaborative innovation, the Innovation Factory offers, in particular, to make students of its School, companies and startups work on all kinds of innovation projects brought by one or the other.

His study focuses on the development of innovation platforms in France and Asia. Asia is taking a growing share in the global economy. This led it to a particular innovation approach. Hence the interest of a comparison, to understand its approach and detect opportunities for innovation for French companies.

What does this study tell us?


What are innovation platforms and open labs:
  • Innovation platforms are developing all over the world and are a reflection of the socio-economic transformation linked to the digitalisation of the economy.

They can take the name of “third-places, incubators, accelerators, fablabs, makerspaces, co-working spaces or collaborative spaces…” In France, one can mention Thecamp, Les Garages xyz, The Family, Station F…

Innovation platforms are structured around 3 dimensions: a physical place, a community and a portfolio of services that adapt quickly. There is no single model, they differ according to their business models, their partners (public and private), their legal status and the choice of their service portfolio.
In France, they act as true accelerators of innovation by being both “content providers” and “network providers”. They make it possible to break the silos within the ecosystems. ”

  • In large companies, regardless of the sector of activity, “open labs” have developed, to support them face new challenges of innovation, in the era of the digital acceleration. These open labs have innovation management practices similar to innovation platforms, but they remain a legal entity of the company.


Their missions:
  • In France, innovation platforms can cover three types of missions: business oriented, social business oriented and not for profit. In Asia, innovation platforms are mainly business oriented and social business oriented.

In China, innovation platforms aim mainly at the emergence of new markets or the economic development of geographical areas, through urbanization or catching up of some less developed regions. In other Asian countries, they focus on both societal and economic issues. The not for profit approach therefore appears like a French specificity.

  • For open labs, 3 missions are identified: developing new internal innovation capabilities, developing a new innovation ecosystem aligned with the company’s future challenges, participating in the management of internal change in the company.

In France, open labs are more oriented towards the development of new internal capacities for innovation and the change management. In Asia, it is more on the animation of new ecosystems of innovation and in particular sourcing of startups.


Management practices for innovation projects and community management are equivalent in France and in Asia. Like the use of creativity methods (for example, design thinking) and co-creation.

Communities bring together diverse profiles (entrepreneurs, employees, students, public institutions or associations) to enable the development of new innovation processes.

The physical place, friendly, open, has an essential place, to ensure close relations between teams on a project.


Accessible services:
  • In France as in Asia, the services offered by the innovation platforms concern,
    – market access,
    – the investments required to manage the change of scale,
    – the support of the change of managerial practices to move from “startups” mode to that of company,
    – support for industrialization and the steps necessary for selling on a “global” or “glocal” market

In France, the services linked to industrialization developed later than in Asia.

The offer of services is based on different strategies in France and Asia. In Asia, there is a tendency to integrate all services within the same platform. In France, the trend is towards a mix of services delivered at a time by the platform itself and by its partners to offer a full range of services to the company.

  • In France, many open labs manage intrapreneurship programs, with high expectations within companies. In Asia, open labs are often very active in accelerating startups in relation to the company’s markets or product / service portfolios.

The challenge lies in the ability to quickly align the startup project with the expectations of the business units of the company. The open lab contributes to the evolution of the company because it allows to gain in reactivity and flexibility to quickly make decisions on a proof of concept, on the continuation of a collaboration with a startup and on a joint marketing. The pace of innovation and the speed of execution of projects are more reactive in Asia than in France, and it is here that the comparison is most marked.


The dynamics of globalization:
  • This is a very strong trend in Asia for innovation platforms, far more than in France: 

Because of the size effect of China or India, innovation projects see faster than what is done in France, and ” global “. And due to cultural and linguistic specificities, innovation platforms in Asia are often a means that goes beyond testing or maturing a product or service. It is a way to learn the local market, to understand the economic, legal, behavioral codes. Platforms are a gateway for foreign companies that want to enter these markets.

There is the emergence of global innovation platforms that manage activities and services on several continents. This particularity is important in Asia, not in France despite the existence of mega-platforms. These platforms often work with cooperations in the United States, China and India and also in Europe.

There are also networks of innovation platforms that are used to detect the best opportunities for innovation.
A special feature of China, which often mobilizes or creates ad hoc global innovation platforms to operate strategic sourcing. startups and serve the vitalization objectives of its regions.These initiatives are managed in conjunction with local or central public authorities.This approach seems for the moment to concern only China in Asia, with the United States at the world level.

Recently, French innovation platforms have begun to internationalize their activities. But the momentum is weak compared to the United States or China. With their means that will surely impact startup ecosystems in France in the near future.

  • For business open labs, their challenge is to articulate the two levels, local and global, to contribute together to the overall strategy of the company.

These approaches are already thought of as “glocal” in the large Asian companies present on the world market. They solicit startups to participate in their activities from around the world. Or, they motivate European companies, especially French ones, who settle in Asia, to benefit from local dynamics. The dynamics driven by large French companies also exist. But they are more recent and with a still limited scope …


Innovation platforms will undoubtedly “boost” small/medium-sized companies, to innovate more quickly and to launch themselves internationally. Open labs can also help large companies manage innovation and their development abroad. For fairer competitiveness and more progress, in a new collaborative world? The future will tell.


You have a product / service innovation project, you want to test a concept, evaluate your product / service?  Contact-us.
We will be happy to exchange with you, to offer you a tailor-made study methodology and support throughout your project.

The LDB Mica Research Team


– Les open labs plus disruptifs en Asie qu’en France
– Créer et innover aujourdhui en France et en Asie
– Etude Innovation Factory