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How to run a Lab

In order to set up an Innovation Lab on a national level, new Labs can follow this simple structure with four elements:

  1. Recruiting companies in each country will be followed by an initial workshop surfacing the innovation challenge and capturing experience, issues and experiments in progress within participating firms.
  2. A data collection phase will follow using a short 'benchmarking' framework, and this will compile a snapshot of each firm in terms of its approaches for dealing with key innovation challenges.
  3. This snapshot will be the subject of a review meeting with the firm followed by a second networking workshop, which will facilitate experience sharing and identification of cross-company learning opportunities.
  4. It is up to the national Labs to schedule more than two national workshops each year. Additional workshops might be an excellent opportunity to delve into a specific topics or methods, which has been brought up in past workshops.
  5. Finally, the results of the country networking activity will form the basis for a broader workshop at the International Innovation Lab Conference, to which participating firms and researchers from the participating countries will be invited.

And in order to run an Innovation Lab on a national level, new Labs have to consider the following four elements:

  1. Funding You need your own funds to sponsor the meeting organization and personnel involved in the organization and especially in gathering the company data and preparing the case studies. Every national Lab is responsible for developing its own financial. It is up to choice to ask participating companies supporting the project through a fee.
  2. Recruitment of Company Delegates We need delegates' time and commitment. At this stage we are looking for active involvement with the workshops and with helping us with the case study interviews - by identifying whom we should talk to and helping us set up the research. And we'd like the companies' honest views, opinions and experiences so that we can make this an effective learning network rather than a public relations showcase!
  3. National Co-operation between Universities Usually researchers from different universities in a country are working together. New Universities, who are interested in joining the project are asked to contact the country's project manager to arrange a co-operation. This helps us to keep the "national face" of each Lab. 
  4. Data and Case Studies Part of the idea behind the Innovation Labs is to create a body of research material, which we can draw upon to write and present in the wider innovation research community.

So in addition to any country level research, we are trying to make use of a common interview schedule/framework, which we are also trying to adapt for use as a larger sample survey (find further information in shared research process). We are encouraging researchers in each participating country to make use of this so we can compare and contrast across the sample of firms, as well as augment the research with case study data about individual firms. The idea is to carry out this cycle of networking activity around the three core themes in Innovation - search, select and implement. How do firms search in unexpected places and via different and unfamiliar approaches? How can they take strategic decisions and commit to projects, which are far from their ´normal´ fields and appear high risk and uncertain? And how can they take forward projects that involve very different approaches and require very different resources to those ´normally´ developed in their innovation programmes? Some of the Innovation Labs have been established for a while and so they are well-advanced into this programme, but for others the process is only just beginning. It is not essential to carry out the work in three distinct phases and there is certainly the opportunity to learn from the earlier Innovation Lab experiences and to use some of the tools - for example, the ´benchmarking´ tool around search strategies - to help accelerate the process.
The concern is to try and capture case and survey data to identify the kinds of experiments firms are making towards dealing with these three core questions

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