How Sponsoring corporate accelerators and Innovation relate

by Jan Michael Richter, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany

Corporate accelerators unsurprisingly receive increasing attention: The concept of combing start-ups’ power to innovate and the resource richness of established companies seems like a perfect match.

Innovation is more than just a popular word in the economy and there is no lack of examples of how companies with more innovative ideas take the lead over their competitors and even shape whole industries. It is also no secret that that established companies often operate in a way that makes it difficult to generate the same quantity and quality of innovative ideas as fresh and flexible start-ups do.

Sponsoring a corporate accelerator gives such an established company the chance to gather a group of promising start-ups out of a group of applicants into a three- to six-month program, during which they will receive above all investment and coaching, and will often be co-located with the sponsor. In this context research finds that innovation, which in this setting is understood as a significantly improved or novel product or business process, is brought into the sponsoring company within the framework of open innovation.

This happens in the way of sponsoring companies using corporate accelerators to observe and improve what they understand of for example a market or technology, or as they collaborate with a start-up on a specific project within the sponsor’s value chain. Furthermore, the corporate accelerator might be used as a testing field to gain experiences not possible within the sponsor’s standard setting. Additionally, some researchers point out that corporate accelerators can also be used to develop internal innovations which seem more promising outside the routines and norms of established companies.

For sponsoring corporate accelerators to be a successful open innovation endeavor, the sponsor’s culture regarding innovation and the structures and systems in place to facilitate the use of insights won are considered success factors. Also, the sponsoring company should protect the start-ups from bureaucratic burdens and prove credibility as a fair partner, as well as try to integrate into the start-up support system.The amount of literature available about corporate accelerators is still limited, so that researchers are looking at a field with many possible paths to take to further the understanding of what makes corporate accelerators work and what implications this has. An interesting road to take could be for example the development of a tailorable manual about the successful implementation of corporate accelerators.

Jan Michael Richter is a graduate student of management and entrepreneurship at Leuphana University in Lüneburg, Germany.

This blog post refers to the book chapter “How Sponsoring Corporate Accelerators and Innovation Relate” written by Jan, which is part of the eBook “Organizing for Innovation: The Case of Accelerators”.

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