Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Cisco is a Corporate Startup Star, and that’s a good thing for innovation in our industry

February 6, 2018

Having been named by Startup Europe Partnership (SEP) as one of the world’s top corporates for start-ups to partner with in 2016, it was brilliant to be honoured once more, as a ‘Corporate Startup Star’, at 2017’s ceremony in December.

Hosted in Brussels, the event was organised by Mind The Bridge and sponsored by the European Commission.

Some of the world’s biggest conglomerates were in attendance, and it wasn’t just tech companies, either: as well as ourselves and the likes of SAP and Telefonica, others including Unilever and Enel were also present for the awards, discussions and workshops being hosted.

Carlos Moedas, the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation presented us with our award, and spoke about the Commission’s on-going commitment to driving innovation in the region.

Large corporates, it’s clear, have a significant role to play in this – and events and accolades like the Startup Star awards can serve as an important reminder.

Corporate co-innovation

One of the best things about the event was the opportunity to actually meet with other corporates and share ideas on how best to work with start-ups and make innovation – and co-innovation – a reality.

There was a real focus on this aspect of the meet-up as we split into working groups to tackle problems together, along with start-up founders and investors too.

Many of those present had similar views on the approach to innovation. In short, it’s about being fast, dynamic, not top-down (the government is not going to do the work for you), and engaging properly with the wider ecosystem.

Equally, there was unanimous agreement that innovation can’t happen in silos anymore – open innovation is the new status quo.

We could all agree that the case for more open innovation is a strong one, but that it does make things more complex.

It presents the need to change mind-sets and improve understanding of how to overcome incumbent resistance to a more fluid approach to work and a risk-averse approach to adopting – or just trying out – new business models.

Beyond this, we need to think more broadly about innovation.

It’s not just about coming up with a new product or solution, we need to innovate with our business models and processes and the way we do things too.

But let’s face these facts, and face them together – learning from our shared experiences too. It’ll be more effective and lucrative for everyone in the long run.

Collective responsibility

Corporates won’t achieve all of this alone, though. Policy makers can provide the right incentives for better science and better innovation, and that is what the European Commission and governments around Europe are focusing on.

A key value the European Commission, and other relevant national, regional and local bodies can also offer is the opportunity to bring different groups together – government, SMEs, public organisations, academia and more – to tackle shared challenges.

There are plenty of examples of this within Cisco’s innovation programme, perhaps most notably the CityVerve smart city demonstrator in Manchester – delivered by a consortium of more than twenty cross-sector organisations, and funded by Innovate UK.

Equally, our innovation centres across the UK and Europe provide hubs within which these diverse partners can work and innovate together. They also represent Cisco’s commitment to and involvement in the broader innovation ecosystem.

Start-ups, of course, are a key fixture in this. And awards like the Corporate Startup Stars provide a reminder of the need to synergise effectively with exciting and innovative new companies.

Working with start-ups, and the way we work with them, is a vital part of Cisco’s innovation strategy.

Cisco is a global company, yes, but we’re also genuine players in the local markets that we operate in.

We’re embedded in these ecosystems, and putting our energies into helping them flourish – that means jobs, economic growth, and supporting innovation wherever it can thrive. It’s part of remaining competitive, and encouraging the flow of new blood into the system.

It’s something we feel this award shows recognition of, and something that differentiates us from many of our ‘Big Tech’ counterparts.

The global stage

And as for the bigger picture of where Europe and its start-ups stand in the global innovation stakes, it’s clear that the US is still leading the way, with Silicon Valley raising 39% of capital compared to London’s 13%, according to Mind the Bridge.

But Europe can hold its own. We have a tendency to underestimate our abilities when it comes to innovation, when in actual fact we’re leading in many fields of research, development and creative ideation. And the UK is leading Europe when it comes to scaling businesses.

Governments should continue to encourage a reasonable and healthy approach to those who take risk (both entrepreneurs and investors) and focus on creating the conditions (e.g. low capital gains tax, great universities, good tax benefits to angel investors) that allow innovation to happen.

Intra-continental events like those hosted by Mind the Bridge are also vital for sharing experience and expertise to help grow the wider continental ecosystem, and we were proud to be part of it.

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