Archive for April, 2009

Open Innovation: Partnering to Develop New Products and Reduce Costs

Point: Working with a partner in a different industry can yield innovative resultsgabriel washable textile globe

Story: Gabriel is a Danish manufacturer of environmentally-friendly upholstery fabrics. Founded in 1851, it’s one of Europe’s leading suppliers of furniture textiles and was voted the most innovative company in Denmark in 2007. Because Gabriel knows that it can’t create every idea in-house, the company uses open innovation to weave in the capabilities of outside partners. Open innovation means intentionally leveraging the research and technologies of outsiders, rather than only relying on internally-generated innovations. Gabriel is constantly looking for new materials, new production technologies, and new applications for furniture textiles.

In particular, Gabriel gives special attention to how it forms partnerships for open innovation. First, Gabriel ensures that its partners have the right competencies to match the innovation activity at hand. Second, partners sign a confidentiality agreement so that the ideas can be exchanged freely. Open innovation is even possible with competitors, provided that the companies create clear and explicit contractual agreements from the outset.

In one example, Gabriel looked at the manufacturing technologies used by the car industry to make car seats. After all, a car seat is like a chair on wheels. Together with furniture company Hay, Gabriel introduced a fabric electro-welding technology originally used by Fiat to make car seats. The method laminates tough exterior fabric covering and soft interior filler in a way that greatly reduces production costs of furniture.


  • Look outside your company and outside your industry for people that have similar problems (and possibly useful solutions)
  • Identify innovative products or methodologies for collaborative and adaptive projects.
  • Create a partnership with the outside co-innovator to share ideas, results, or profits as appropriate.

For more information: Gabriel A/S

8 Comments »Case study, How-to, Innovation, New Product Development, Strategy

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