The future of innovation: Start-ups and corporates to work under one roof by 2025

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Unilever Foundry launches global study into corporate and start-up collaboration at Dmexco today

  • 80 per cent of corporates believe that startups can have a positive impact on a large company’s approach to innovation
  • 46 per cent of startups who have not worked with corporates are likely to do so in the future
  • 89 per cent of startups believe they’re able to deliver business solutions which can scale

Unilever Foundry, a global platform for start-ups and innovators to engage and collaborate, predicts corporates and start-ups will form the ultimate partnership, working side by side in the same physical space by 2025, seeking greater proximity for innovation as they evolve to meet changing consumer needs.

‘The State of Innovation’, a global study and white paper from Unilever Foundry, was launched today at Dmexco by Unilever EVP Global Marketing, Aline Santos. The report looks at how the relationship between corporates and startups will continue to evolve. The white paper identifies three predictions on how the industry will change over the next decade.

Aline Santos, Unilever EVP global marketing, said: “Collaboration can no longer be viewed as an optional extra, it’s a strategic imperative. Startups are now widely recognised as invaluable sources of innovation, fueling growth and providing pioneering business solutions.

“The State of Innovation report reveals the appetite for collaboration between corporates and startups and signals a shift in the models adopted for future partnerships.

“As the Unilever Foundry continues its journey looking for exciting new partnerships, we are continually learning to ensure our future collaborations are effective as possible.”

Key findings from The State of Innovation:

Start-ups and corporates to work side by side in the same office by 2025

As the pace of change increases, corporations know that to meet evolving consumer needs they need to look for the right partners to innovate and build relationships with.

With 90 per cent of corporates already working with a start-up expecting to continue to do so, Unilever Foundry predicts physical shared working spaces will become commonplace to facilitate growth and break down barriers to collaboration.

The research reveals the three most important reasons for working together: learning something new (start-ups 88 per cent/corporates 85 per cent); improving efficiency (start-ups 81 per cent/corporates 81 per cent); and solving business problems in new ways that can scale (start-ups 89 per cent/corporates 80 per cent).

The future of corporate and start-up innovation: a short-term boom in “tech tourism” but structured programmes emerging as the long-term winner

After an initial rise in “tech tourism” – shorter term activity ranging from trips to tech HQs to less formal partnerships – a longer-term model will win out.  While 83 per cent of start-ups value the publicity from these short-term models, 80 per cent of corporates believe that start-ups can have a positive impact on large companies’ approaches to innovation. 

As a result, Unilever Foundry predicts that large businesses will become more willing to invest in structured programmes as companies choose meaningful partnerships over PR-driven quick fixes.  One startup described their experience with tech tourism models saying:

“At the low end of the spectrum is tech tourism: a brand shows up in Silicon Valley, rides the Google slide, meets a couple of startups – at best it’s inspirational but basically it’s a waste of time. Start-ups want meaningful new initiatives and uses of technology.”

Start-up and corporate collaboration will evolve from an optional extra to a business–critical investment in the next five years.

In order to keep up with the accelerating rate of innovation in business, Unilever Foundry predicts that start-up collaboration will become a necessity for corporates over the next five years, with around four out of five corporates (79 per cent) and start-ups (78 per cent) anticipating more collaborative work in the future.

Start-ups believe they are up to the task, with almost nine in ten (89 per cent) claiming they’re able to deliver business solutions which can scale.

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