Open Innovation is also about to be AI-driven

Corporates are changing the way they innovate. While in the past, innovation was mostly an internal R&D play, nowadays it follows an open approach. New technologies are so pervasive and fast evolving that no company in the world - whatever its size, market or industry - can innovate alone. The only way forward is to join forces with special innovation vehicles also known as startups and scaleups.

To do so, companies have to scout the startup landscape for innovative solutions with the proper level of maturity (also known as TRL, Technology Readiness Level, ranging from 1 to 9) that allows them to be deployed. And they must run a global search since it is unlikely that the best solutions might be found in their neighborhood.

That means that companies have to look at thousands of startups per year to funnel them down and identify the few ones to co-innovate with. The graph below provides data about the scouting funnel of the Corporate Startup Stars, i.e. the top 100 companies ranked annually by Mind the Bridge and the International Chamber of Commerce. This process is typically supported by specialized third parties.

The Venture Client Model: Typical Funnel

Emerging trends in AI-driven open innovation:

1. Startup scouting to be increasingly “productized”

The number of innovation/matching platforms, some with extended functionalities to include Startup Relationship Management (SRM) capabilities, are booming. Rising providers are Glassdollar, MTB (Mind the Bridge) Ecosystem, Pitchbook, Octorank, Novable, Bloomflow, KITE Scouting, and Tracxn, plus others more vertical/industry-focused (such as Finnovating in fintech).

2. Startup scouting is about to become AI-driven

Mind the Bridge, a global innovation platform that supports large and mid-sized corporations in designing and executing open innovation as a service, has been building up an AI scouting engine for four years. Since they knew that traditional scouting activities were about to be disrupted, the company tried to disrupt itself. And AI driven scouting and matching works pretty well and it’s exponentially getting better and better. Mind the Bridge also included generative AI capabilities in helping corporates define their own innovation challenges.

3. Idea generation and early-stage/seed investments are increasingly powered by AI

Algorithms are gathering and crunching investment data from databases (such as Crunchbase, Pitchbook, DealRoom, …) and conversation data from the web (sites and socials). The goal is to identify the emerging market niches to invest in - an example here, among many others, is QuSeed by Startup Bakery.


AI is not just eating the world as we know it. It is also about to take over innovation and the new world we are building. Mind the Bridge will continue to incorporate AI to support open innovation and inspire other companies to do so. From large to medium-sized companies, the focus is to increasingly use artificial intelligence to boost  startup investing (CVC), venture building, intrapreneurship, and other open innovation challenges. 

Want to learn more about the future of open innovation powered by AI? Visit the Mind the Bridge website or contact me directly via LinkedIn!

Article written by Alberto Onetti, Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Insubria and Chairman and President of Mind the Bridge

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