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When innovation is the synthesis of the contributions of start-ups and large groups

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At a time when competitiveness excluding costs has become the lever of growth in which France has placed its hopes, companies must bring out new ways of conceiving innovation and encourage the launch of initiatives that generate high added value. Such an objective necessarily involves pooling expertise and sharing knowledge and skills. Of course, there are many possible avenues to explore, but first we will look at the importance of industrial collaboration between SMEs and major accounts.

This scheme, widely adopted in various European countries and particularly in Germany, is at the origin of the success of many SMEs which have been able to capitalize on the contributions of their collaboration with major accounts to be successful in export. The latter, for their part, have been able to benefit from major innovations thanks to their collaboration with start-ups, and thus strengthen their position on international markets. These are win-win partnerships with high potential for the country's position in global competition.

In concrete terms, bringing together the worlds of major accounts and start-ups brings together complementary virtues: the agility and cutting-edge expertise of SMEs on the one hand, and the industrial requirements and processes of major accounts on the other, with the resulting strike force. Such an alchemy means that the partners have to learn to work together and take advantage of their complementary qualities.

The challenge is to ensure that a collaboration established on a pragmatic basis is put in place. While avoiding killing initiatives, it is nonetheless imperative to take into account the size and resources of each party in order to launch realistic projects. The notion of size and resources is important as large accounts can quickly become very demanding and in some cases even crush start-ups under the weight of their institutional constraints. This is an extreme case which is obviously not sought after either by large accounts or by SMEs. Creating a climate of trust and mutual understanding is the key to successfully aligning the different rhythms of the partners.

Once the mode of collaboration is found, each structure will bring the best of itself. It should be noted that by working with key accounts, start-ups will optimise their innovation cycle and develop their offer by standardising new functions. Indeed, large accounts are very demanding and often require specific functionalities that imply high added value developments. These can then be integrated into the product plans of suppliers who can then offer them to other customers. In order not to lose this potential for acceleration, adequate legal means will have to be put in place to enable the start-up to capitalize on this capitalization while providing the large group with maintenance and evolution insurance adapted to its imperatives.

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As a successful illustration of such a co-innovation process, Calinda Software was able to benefit from an industrial collaboration with one of the world's largest telecommunications operators in the context of a major project: the implementation of a Corporate Social Network (CSR) at the corporate level. This fruitful collaboration has made it possible to bring together the best of the two DNAs and to respect the constraints of both companies. After initiating an initial relationship based on "trembling confidence" on the part of the large global group towards the start-up, the two companies quickly established a very frank relationship and set up a partnership based on listening and trust. Thanks to a way of working based on precise commitments and close milestones, as well as direct and frequent communication, the two companies became full-fledged partners. This has enabled them to emerge from this relationship in a big way and to launch one of the largest CSR projects in the world. As an early adopter, the operator can now rely on a breakthrough technology born of an industrial collaboration with one of the pioneers in the field. This has also enabled the start-up to bridge the gap that traditionally separates innovations from their acceptability by major accounts (in reference to Geoffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm) and to accelerate the sales cycle of its technology on a large scale. It has thus been able to win over American and European customers with its technologies, which have no equivalent on the market.

We are therefore in the presence of collaborations that generate value and innovation. It is important to promote this type of initiative, which is a strong axis of business competitiveness. One of the benefits of such a measure also lies in its ease of implementation if major accounts play the game by selecting French SMEs. The latter will therefore be able to improve their performance, propose innovative solutions and strengthen their competitiveness. Major accounts also stand to gain by finding a way to make their internal processes more flexible in order to speed up projects of high strategic importance or with a high innovation content.

alexandremermodThis project for the future must therefore be positioned at the centre of the strategic development plans of all French companies so that our SMEs can become champions of innovation internationally, and our key accounts can remain so!

{Jacuzzi on}

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