Archive for the 'Intermediation' Category

Matchmakers Welcome!

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

Living Labs Catalunya, an initiative to promote innovation in mobile services and technologies by the 22@Barcelona Innovation District, the Barcelona Digital Foundation, the City of Sant Cugat and TecnoCampus Mataró held a matchmaking event on Monday to connect 14 Scandinavian companies with Catalan business and institutional partners. Coinciding with the launch of the 3GSM World Congress, 40 experts in innovative services and technologies exchanged opportunities and ideas, with the support public agencies and venture capital partners to assist new inward investments and export opportunities.

22@Barcelona marketing director Jordi Sacristán welcomed the visitors together with Christer Asplund of Living Labs Global, acting as the facilitator for the event. All participants considered Catalonia the ideal business and innovation environment for joint activities and a professional entry-point into the Mediterranean market.

Sascha Haselmayer, General Coordinator of Living Labs Catalunya, called the event a great success, with a number of promising leads that could bring new services to citizens, businesses and visitors in Catalunya and new international opportunities opened for Catalan companies. Studies such as the mWatch Europe surveys i(see previous post) into mobile readiness in 21 European cities have continually emphasised the need to place European users at the centre of service development.

Commenting on the 3GSM World Congress, he expressed the hope that in future editions of the event visitors would experience Catalonia as a ‘Cradle of Content’, through a unique range of mobile services at their disposal. Such initiatives would not only add to the attractiveness of the region, but also showcase the uniqueness of companies in the region developing world-class services and technologies.

Already on Tuesday, follow-up talks were held not only with key companies, but also representatives of Living Labs Kalmar (Sweden), to strengthen the regional collaboration to deliver new services for students, tourists and travellers.

Intermediation - A Tool for Collaboration

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

Formal professional intermediation is an interesting emerging way to increase the potential for connections between different organizations. Informal intermediaries are all around us - they are us. We play the go-between in everything from budding romantic relationships to endorsing someone’’s prospective new-hire candidate. (On, we even do this in a semi-formal way.)

To distinguish between this kind of intermediation and professional intermediation, here is a definition: A Professional Intermediary is a person who maintains fiduciary responsibility to more than one legally separate entity at a time. In this capacity, a team of intermediaries can work together from inside many companies as though they all worked for the same company.

With a definition like this, things get interesting. Now we are talking about dual-agency, about people who are trusted - that’’s what maintaining fiduciary responsibility is all about - by different parties to act in their collective best interest. It takes a lot of judgment, and it isn'’t the right tool for every job. In fact, professional intermediaries occupy a very specialized role. The community site, (Industry Study of Professional Intermediation) is devoted to understanding where, when and how to use intermediaries and establishing open standards of practice for this budding profession.

This begs the question, why do we need a profession of intermediaries? Here are some reasons:

1) Today, we are starting to realize that the key to innovation is not inventions that we can patent but intentions to do something new and different - maybe to do something new and different with an invention. This information can not be protected. Once people know your intentions, they have you. Countries do not grant monopolies on intentions, so you can'’t protect your “rights” to them. And yet, we are also learning that most innovations today require collaboration with outside parties. Few companies, even the largest, most diversified ones, can go it alone anymore. So the trick is finding out in advance whether another party a) has the insights, capabilities and resources you need to fill the gaps in your intentions; and b) is not likely to take the knowledge of your intentions and use it against you. Intermediaries working inside both your organization and others'’ can spot win-win connections and investigate whether there is a good fit in everyones'’ intentions before exposing them to each other.

2) What does a European firm do to explore opportunities to collaborate with firms in China or India? The first advice of any consultant is to tread carefully. When seeking and forging relationships with firms in countries whose IP laws are not the same as yours, it is crucial to establish trust and shared intent before revealing information that could be appropriated. Like the first case above, this presents a conundrum. You need to know in advance information you can only learn after disclosure. A global profession of intermediaries would be useful here. To be clear, no such world-wide professional standard yet exists to solve this problem, but that is what the community around ISOPI is working on .

3) When you submit a new invention to an IP attorney, the attorney searches to determine whether your filing is original, whether there is any prior art that would predate or circumvent your claims. What the attorney is not typically doing is looking for business connections for your project. In fact, sharing the information about your pre-filed invention openly at this early stage (which is exactly the time you need those connections most - for validation as well as financial and technical assistance) would invalidate your filing, and you would lose the chance to claim IP rights. And yet, you still need to find those business connections. Today, that is done very often in conversations “off the record” where someone has to risk invalidating the patent. These conversations start very often with the phrase, “Don'’t tell anyone I'’m telling you this, but…” Intermediaries, on the other hand, are able to share with each other this information, because they maintain perpetual non-disclosure agreements with every firm they work for. So the knowledge is kept within the appropriate chain of custody, and you stand a chance of finding those business connections early without losing filing rights.

4) Finally, big and small companies that want to explore ways of working together have a serious problem. The small company wants assurances that the big company won’t “steal their lunch” and hide behind their comparatively large legal teams. On the other hand, big companies are concerned about being sued by small firms claiming just that - that they stole their lunch. Stalemate. No wonder there is so much overhead negotiation just to get a frank and open conversation between a big firm that could commercialize a small firm’’s invention and the small firm that could use the big company’’s muscle. Again, intermediaries can help. In this case, there are a variety of schemes popping up around the world to supply intermediary services to small firms that can'’t afford a dedicated human resource that performs this role. It remains to be seen which methods prove most effective.

The Living Labs Europe team has been a leading advocate of all forms of collaboration methods, and intermediation appears to be on their list of interesting new organizational tools. At ISOPI, we are interested to watch and learn how Living Labs puts this tool to use.

If you are interested in this topic, feel free to join the ISOPI community and make your own contribution to our global understanding of professional intermediation.