Looking for a model Open Innovation Ecosystem… you’ll need to go to Mars.

July 22, 2013

Its not often you go to Mars. But I spent the last week there and, while its very very hot from a temperature standpoint, the technology and infrastructure are the more impressive aspects.

Let me explain... in case you haven’t been to Mars.

I’m in Toronto at the MaRS Discovery District, a central innovation hub placed strategically at the nexus of several hospitals, University of Toronto, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, and the Canadian Centre for Regenerative Medicine. Other members, including York University and Sunnybrook Hospital, are located a short distance away. GE Healthcare, GSK, and Eli Lilly Canada have offices in the MaRS complex, nestled alongside VC funds and start-ups.

Also, it was 93° degrees Fahrenheit yesterday in downtown Toronto, with a humidity index of 102°. So, it was very hot. (And, actually Mars the planet never really gets over 70° Fahrenheit … fun fact.)

MaRS, an acronym for Medical and Related Sciences, has a simple mission: improve commercialization of research through public-private partnerships. With its advantageous location and banner list of members and tenants, MaRS is both a physical space and an attitude of successful Open Innovation.

I’m proud to say we have a number of customers located in the MaRS complex, so I have been coming to the MaRS since the official dedication in 2005. I’ve seen the growth and successful economic development firsthand. I’ve also been to many other “incubation spaces” over the years, but none hold the balance of co-located corporate, academic, and government organizations necessary to succeed as an Open Innovation Ecosystem like MaRS.

MaRS Innovation is at the center of this mix. Launched just a few years ago, MaRS Innovation has private and public investment dollars to promote commercialization of the biggest opportunities arising from research in the surrounding geography. Sometimes that’s needed investment in marketing and licensing, sometimes that’s technology scouting for partnership opportunities, and sometimes that’s taking a proactive roll in launching start-ups.

In all cases, it’s truly Open Innovation. Open Innovation is about seeking collaborations that generate economic returns for participants. So, usually we talk about Open Innovation in the context of companies. MaRS Discovery District’s success demonstrates that Open Innovation has a vital role to play in economic development, too.



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