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9 July, 2015 - 11:05 By Tony Quested

Cambridge action group drives open innovation across the globe

Innovation ncem

The Cambridge-based Centre for Business Innovation (CfBI) is growing its influence in spreading open innovation best practice around the world in areas as diverse as manufacturing, life sciences and new materials.

CEO, Peter Hewkin says CfBI continues to expand its portfolio of consortia delivering collaborative advantage across Europe, the US and beyond. 
Leading companies, government departments and research institutes are participating to derive benefit from accelerated learning, cost sharing, influencing regulators, designing and promoting best practices, training as well as business development. 

“And all this is in the spirit of open innovation with the the goal of ‘doing more with less,” Hewkin told Business Weekly.

Now in its seventh year, CfBI operates seven different consortia. The newest offering is the Corporate Venturing Leadership forum, where blue chips privately compare notes on best practice in working with small companies.

Its Microfluidics consortium recently engaged with the FDA in the US seeking new ways to accelerate the uptake and approval of microfluidics innovations. It meets next in Cambridge UK on September 21 and 22, with an open day on the 22nd.

CfBI’s largest consortium continues to expand around the world as exciting new applications for microfluidics (aka lab-on-a-chip) – in areas as diverse as health, environment, food, cosmetics and energy – come to market.

The dialogue with the FDA addressed how approval of microfluidic innnovations might be accelerated. The consortium also has ambitious plans to engage with microfluidics startups.

This year, MF-6 has been hosted by Becton Dickinson in Carolina; Radiometer and DTU (in Copenhagen), Microsoft and the British Consulate (in Boston). After the Cambridge event in September, there will be others in Amsterdam (December 7) and San Francisco (February 15). A study tour to Japan is also on the cards.

CfBI’s Nano-Carbon-Enabled-Materials Consortium enters its fourth year, building on the success of its FP7 ‘Ultrawire’ project and is expanding into the United States.

The consortium helps members understand and grasp new business opportunities arising from recent findings in nano-carbon – particularly carbon nanotubes and graphene.

As the findings of its FP7 Ultrawire project reach the public domain, the focus is moving towards commercial realisation of the benefits of new nano-carbon enhanced materials. This also takes it into new types of composite materials – for example polymers, non-wovens and ceramics – as well as into new manufacturing processes, such as additive manufacturing).

Dr Kyle Kissell, technology development director at NanoRidge Materials in the US, said: “I believe that consortia like this are a critical step towards bridging the gap between extraordinary science and product commercialisation. We feel privileged to be invited to speak to a group that is interested in doing something as opposed to just talking about something.” 
Innovation mf Boston
The Medical Adherence Consortium meets on July 21 in Weybridge, hosted by Wallgreens Boots Alliance and working with NICE/EFPIA and MHRA. Members including AstraZeneca, GSK, Philips, Walgreens Alliance Boots, BUPA, Abbvie, Tunstall, NICE and EFPIA have identified shared interests which can be efficiently pursued by a group of organisations with a global footprint to address the $trillion problem which arises because patients do not always follow the advice of their healthcare practitioners. 

The current focus of the consortium is twofold – to explore the potential of a brand-agnostic patient support programme and to establish a fruitful channel of discussion with the health regulatory authorities. 

CfBI’s Social Media for Business consortium is entering its second year and is expanding across Europe as members look for new ways to use social media on a global scale as a strategic tool to address key KPIs.

Members of its Open Innovation meets Big Data consortium – now in its 5th year – see a new business paradigm drawing on external insights/analytics to make better evidence-based business decisions, says Hewkin.

The Inclusive Design consortium, together with the Engineering Design Centre in Cambridge, is working with leading retailers and brands to create a tool to measure ‘senior friendliness’ of everyday products and services.

The Cambridge partners have brought together leading researchers and practitioners  to deliver a second one-year consortium programme (ID-2) where companies are learning together, sharing experiences and receiving practical support for this major new business opportunity. Members include Transport for London, Heathrow Airport, Proctor and Gamble, John Lewis, Waitrose, GSK, Stora Enso, Alexander Dennis, Glen Dimplex and Morphy Richards.

The third Inclusive Design Consortium (ID-3) is now in planning. ID-3 will develop an enhanced version of the EDC’s well-known exclusion calculator. This enables designers to formally assess the demand required to carry out a task (e.g. unwrapping a product, getting onto a bus) across a full range of human abilities – including vision, hearing, cognition, reach and dexterity and mobility. It uses a unique dataset which captures the occurrence of multiple capability impairments across the UK population.

Hewkin said: “Companies joining the consortium can expect to make back the cost of participation (including cost of staff time) through increased sales and/or reduced costs of their first inclusively designed product.”

The CfBI team has been further strengthened to include Adam Swash (ex-Experian) and MagicSolver founder Emmanuel Carraud, a digital native and m-entrepreneur.

CfBI is now investigating potential new consortia to embrace areas such as 3D printing/additive manufacturing, the Internet of (locatable) Things and business risk/cyber-security.

Hewkin said: “CfBI is continually scoping with our established community of corporate members the possibility of adding new consortia to our portfolio. We are also looking for new opportunities to cross-link our consortia to create even more member value.”

• For the latest information on CfBI’s consortia, members and processes visit or contact them at ceo [at] or by phone on + 44 1223 850173.

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