DIGITALEUROPE

Europe’s Innovation Network Discovered: Unexus.org Turning Dreams into Reality

A series of guest blogs by digital entrepreneurs. This first guest blog post is by Justin Brown and Mark Bakacs, founders of Unexus.org, an innovation network helping individuals, organisations and research institutions to build innovation communities.

The Innovation Union Scorecard for 2011 published in February this year reveals that research and development (R&D) spending in Europe is slowing and that the gap between Europe and the global leaders for innovation – the United States, Japan and South Korea – is growing.

Creating a new crop of digital entrepreneurs

With increasingly limited resources available for traditional R&D, there is an imperative for research institutions, corporations and individuals to collaborate in generating and executing innovative ideas. A Digital Single Market in Europe promises new opportunities for research institutions, organisations and individuals to bypass traditional methods of R&D and collaborate across organisational and national frontiers – effectively opening the door to new business models, and an innovation led recovery in Europe which will be spurred by the creation of a crop of new digitally-driven small to medium size businesses.

Our vision is for Unexus to help users harness knowledge, ideas and develop innovative solutions to some of the world’s grand challenges. Unexus provides a global web-based platform for today’s entrepreneurs and innovators to create profiles and projects and attract partners, expand on ideas and raise funds. The platform helps users build innovation communities around their projects based on a flow of knowledge and cross-pollination of ideas.

In a nutshell, Unexus is an ideas incubator; our objective is to spark new business and social ventures. We help innovators turn their ideas into workable business and social models, and provide a platform for them to receive varying levels of funding from research institutions, organisations and individuals via the Unexus website.

Unexus is currently in a beta phase of development, and is demonstrating how collaborative innovation results can be tracked during different stages of development. The Unexus community includes participants from the Erasmus Mundus Association and the OCEANS Network. The REALISE IT initiative, supported by the European Commission (read the press release) is a driving force behind Unexus providing essential expertise to spring-board this project into the commercial realm. Unexus is now seeking to extend its value proposition to other academic and professional institutions and expand its innovation-led community.

Unexus is an invite-only network, which is developed through trusted networks. Our core users fall into two broad categories: innovators and collaborators, where innovators create profiles for their projects, and collaborators share items from the central ideas feed to people and projects. In the first category of innovators, users are largely researchers who work in research institutions and innovation departments within organisations. The second category primarily consists of entrepreneurs seeking to build exposure and trigger funding for their projects. People in the collaborator group overlap substantially with people in the innovator group – as some people are both experts in their particular field, serial entrepreneurs, marketing specialists, information technology experts as well as highly specialised researchers and academics.

Unexus’s platform employs a “follower” model that enables members of the Unexus community to track and contribute knowledge to someone else’s project and profile. Each project and profile produces a specific feed that enables followers to plot information flows, resulting in a lively and engaging product that updates real-time. When selecting a project of interest, followers read a brief description, goals and needs of the project. Followers can then click a pledge button on the project to contribute their expertise or funding. Unexus’s innovation rankings give a daily updated snapshot of the most innovative people and projects on the platform.

Unexus’s strategy for success will be developed based on its outreach to innovators, collaborators and funders across an expanding range of complementary, technology focused, market segments to provide the context for tangible innovation to occur. We are progressively introducing our own business model in the areas of targeted advertising, subscriptions for organisations and crowd-funding, creating in the process a market for innovation.

Alongside and separate from our invite-only innovation network, we host the Innovation Conversation on the Unexus blog to showcase the best examples of collaborative innovation inside Unexus according to our innovation rankings and in society more broadly. We are part of a sweeping global shift towards knowledge-based economies. In an environment of contracting R&D spending, which results in research institutions, organisations and individuals searching for new methods of collaborative innovation, Unexus harnesses the energy that will come from a wellspring of new business and social ideas. Through the Innovation Conversation, we are showcasing the growing importance of collaborative innovation within and beyond Unexus.

Unexus has already made some notable achievements. In recognition of these, in early 2011 Unexus was selected to be part of the UK Trade and Investment Department’s prestigious Global Entrepreneur Programme (GEP). The GEP’s mission is to attract the world’s best sustainable, early-stage companies and entrepreneurs to set-up their global headquarters in the United Kingdom.

Unexus believes that digitally connecting research institutions, organisations and individuals based on knowledge flows will improve rates of innovation in society and the internet economy. We believe that there are many ways to increase innovation in the face of declining R&D expenditure despite the high cost of intellectual property protection.

Collaborative innovation, after all, has occurred throughout human history. Unexus provides a scalable platform for our users to collaboratively innovate at a global level and come up with solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges.

More information about the authors can be found here.

Justin has been awarded an Erasmus Mundus Fellowship for his doctoral research on European innovation at the University of Warwick and l’Université libre de Bruxelles. Justin has years of management consulting experience with GPR Dehler and consults, publishes and speaks to a wide audience on change management and innovation.

Mark has extensive experience for top-tier law firms in London, Paris and Tokyo, specialising in cross border financings, capital raisings and acquisitions. Mark is also co-founder of Playplotter, an events based global network of cosmopolitan and sophisticated gay men and women.

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