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Innovation ecosystem practices for successful cooperation

Jukka Kääriäinen, Pasi Valkokari & Katri Valkokari

Innovation ecosystems are complex undertakings where group of organisations with different backgrounds and often even representing different industrial domains work together to develop new innovative solutions. Since there are group of organisations working collaboratively this setting requires that the ecosystem has common terminology and clear roles, responsibilities and practices how to operate towards shared purpose. This is not easy task since different interests, as well as actors’ different expectations and mind-sets, may hinder the collaboration.

One of the first tasks in innovation ecosystems is to find a common language between actors coming from different industrial sectors and backgrounds in order to enable them to work together as an ecosystem. It is important to understand how a shared aim, structure of collaboration and variety of actors influence to best practices when seeking co-innovations. Question is – how to help practitioners to define innovation ecosystem practices suitable for their ecosystem context?

This question has approached by benchmarking the operational models of the several innovation ecosystem projects [Valkokari et al. 2021; Kääriäinen et al. 2021]. These ecosystem cases were documented using three-level governance model [Kääriäinen et al. 2021] that provides a frame for the definition of practices:

  • Steering level contains all those practices that relate to the strategic agenda and decision making, cost and benefit sharing, financing issues related to the ecosystem. This gives a frame for the operation of whole ecosystem.
  • Coordination level contains practices in line with steering level decisions how to coordinate the daily activities of ecosystem and how to engage new partners into the operation of the ecosystem.
  • Production level contains practices how practical development work is done collaboratively in ecosystem. E.g. PoC development, pilots and demonstrations.
Figure 1. SEED ecosystem’s governance model.

In addition with benchmarking other ecosystems, SEED ecosystem used a series of workshops with partners to define ecosystem rules, agreements and defining collaborative co-innovation process, i.e. ecosystem playbook. The co-innovation process was divided into three main tracks: two of them were public tracks driven by research and industry, whereas the third one was industry use case or solver company driven confidential development track.

Figure 2. SEED key innovation tracks.

Practitioners can utilize checklists and examples that guide them when defining the collaboration model for innovation ecosystems. Therefore, the governance model [Kääriäinen et al. 2021], SEED ecosystem co-innovation process [Valkokari et al. 2021] and example cases from several innovation ecosystems [Kääriäinen et al. 2021; Valkokari et al. 2021] together facilitate innovation ecosystem practitioners finding suitable operational model for their ecosystem context and targets.

You don’t have to start from scratch when defining an operating model for your ecosystem

Read more about innovation ecosystems’ operational models:

Poster: SEED Ecosystem playbook (

Poster: Innovation ecosystem governance models – three cases (

Valkokari, K., Valkokari, P., Rantala, T. & Nyblom, J. 2021. Exploring the Best Practices for Co-innovation in Industry and Academy Collaboration – Four Practical Case Examples. 2021, Smart and Sustainable Collaborative Networks 4.0: Proceedings of the 22nd IFIP WG 5.5 Working Conference on Virtual Enterprises, PRO-VE 2021.

Kääriäinen, J., Valkokari, K., Siira, E., Hemilä, J., & Jurvansuu, M. (2021). Exploring the spaces and places for co-innovation. In Innovating our common future, Proceedings ISPIM Berlin 2021 Lappeenranta University of Technology. LUT Scientific and Expertise Publications: Research Reports