J. Ojasalo

Laurea University of Applied Sciences (FINLAND)
Cities, and public sector in general, are accustomed to buy ready solutions, in other words products and services which are already in commercial phase. However, often the problem is that few or no solutions are readily available in the marketplace to solve the city’s problem. Or, there are solutions that do not perfectly solve the problem. In such a case the city has to accept an inferior solution, or the existing solution needs to be modified. If there are very few or only one solution available the seller(s) can dominate the city. On the other hand, many private companies would like to sell their services and products to cities, if there were not so many obstacles. Still they perceive cities and public sector as a “difficult” customer, particularly SMEs. Cities are considered to be too slow, bureaucratic, too many rules, and requires too much “extra” work. In consequence, the innovation for cities’ needs is inferior. Indeed, there is a clear knowledge gap in this area, and both new scientific and applied knowledge is needed. Open innovation platforms are a new approach to address this problem. They facilitate the innovation collaboration between different actors such as educational and research institutes, companies, and 3rd sector organizations, and public organizations.

The purpose of this article is to increase the knowledge of factors relevant for building up and managing an open service innovation platform for a city’s needs. In this context, the term “innovation platform” is defined as an approach that systematically facilitates external actors’ (companies/3rd sector organizations/citizens/research and educational institutes) innovation with purpose to develop solutions to a city’s problems and needs (Ojasalo, 2015).

The present empirical findings are based on a study in progress. The research method is qualitative and draws on data from in-depth interviews and co-creative multi actor workshops.

This paper identifies a number of relevant factors that need to be considered when planning and developing a concept for an open service innovation platform for a city’s needs. Various questions have to be answered and a number of decisions have to be made in order to develop the concept for the innovation platform. The nature of the innovation platform is determined by the various choices made in respect of these factors.

So far, there is very little knowledge of the fundamental question that needs to be answered when building up an innovation platform which aims at developing solutions to a city’s problems and needs. This paper empirically fills this knowledge gap and contributes to the innovation intermediary as well as urban development and Smart City literature. The results of this study have also clear practical implications particularly to urban policy makers and developers, as well as educators in the field of innovation and urban development.