I’m delighted to introduce today’s guest blog from Bella Cuthbert a current MSc Environmental Technology student at Imperial College London and an exciting new member of our 6Heads community. If you would like to guest blog for us we would love to hear from you so please do get in touch.
The Case for Pre-Competitive Collaboration; Sustainability and Radical Innovation.
Pre-competitive collaboration is a term that refers to when “competitors share early stages of research that benefit all”. It is increasingly accepted as a driver for improved efficiency, while simultaneously improving our grasp of increasing complexity. As companies’ main concerns move from market competition to resource competition could we see growing amounts of collaboration in the sustainable business world? Pre-competitive collaboration has been seen in the pharmaceutical industry. However, will it make it to the big corporates in relation to sustainability?
Diageo has recently worked on this idea in relation to water scarcity issues in Nairobi, with the aim of engaging all its stakeholders in this cause. Diageo got the German department for international development involved and, realising the need for local ownership and passion for the initiative, handed over to Kenya Breweries, the lead partner on the ground. A good start in helping to resolve the numerous water issues in Kenya; however I wonder to what extent this collaboration will work in the long run. Additionally, is this even a true example of pre-competitive collaboration as Kenya Breweries is a subsidiary of Diageo? It will be more impressive, and potentially more effective, when extreme competitors start to collaborate, such as Unilever and P&G.
To what extent do we need the situation to worsen for this to occur? 2 (or 6) heads are better then one; and the collaboration of two such big companies should, essentially, result in some radical innovation. So why are companies so scared to approach each other? They could benefit from first mover advantage and produce products, processes or even different business model to give them an edge. While Unilever can be said to be a sustainable leader, maybe they should be making the first moves to establish a new way of systems thinking.
Will companies, such as Nestlé who are renown for their competitive edge, realise that for future innovation pre-competitive collaboration maybe the new business case? We shall just have to wait and see…
Weber, S. (2004) The Success of Open Source (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA).
Hunter, J. & Stephens, S. (2010). Is open innovation the way forward for big pharma? Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. 9, pp. 87–88.
 Webb, F. (2014) Pre-competitive collaboration could be the key to solving water scarcity risks in Kenya. [Accessed: 10/04/14] Available on: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/collaboration-water-risk-kenya-nairobi-business-ngos-government