Open Innovation at EDF Innovation Lab

Today, we are going to talk about open innovation, because it is an important approach for the Innovation Lab, and more widely for EDF. Open Innovation is a modern approach to product and service development that leverages the knowledge, creativity, and resources of people outside of a traditional organization to drive growth and competitiveness. It’s a way of recognizing that innovation is not only the result of internal research and development but also the result of collaboration with external partners and customers.

The concept of Open Innovation was first introduced by Henry Chesbrough in 2003, who defined it as “a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology.” It’s a departure from the traditional model of innovation, where organizations kept their research and development activities tightly guarded and relied on internal teams to drive growth.

What are the benefits of Open Innovation?

Open Innovation is based on the idea that there are many sources of creativity and innovation, and that organizations can benefit from engaging with these sources to create new products, services, and business models. This can include customers, suppliers, partners, and even competitors. By engaging with these external partners, organizations can access new knowledge, perspectives, and resources that can help them innovate more quickly and effectively.

There are several benefits to adopting an Open Innovation approach. Firstly, it helps organizations access a wider pool of ideas and knowledge, increasing the likelihood of generating game-changing innovations. Secondly, it allows organizations to more effectively manage risk by spreading the development costs and benefits across a wider network of partners. Thirdly, it enables organizations to scale their innovations more quickly and effectively by leveraging the resources of external partners.

How do we define Open Innovation at the EDF Innovation Lab?

The primary focus of our Innovation Lab is conducting R&D for internal clients in five main areas: Smart Grid, Electric Mobility, Energy Markets, Customer Solutions, and Digital. However, our organization also benefits from two other approaches to corporate innovation: Open Innovation and Corporate Venture Capital (CVC).

Open Innovation refers to a collaborative process between a company and external partners, such as organizations, large companies, startups, or academics, with the aim of generating new ideas and solutions. This approach to innovation allows companies to tap into the knowledge, skills, and resources of partners outside of the organization. In our Innovation Lab, Open Innovation can take many forms, including partnerships, co-innovation, and strategic collaborations. However, the goal is not to invest in startups, which is the specific purpose of the CVC activity within the Lab. The focus is on working together to create new value, without any financial backing in the company’s capital. The first benefit for our partner is to understand our real use cases so he will be able to develop a product or service that addresses a need. We will also provide access to our industry experts and our markets.

Our Open Innovation efforts are centered on the same five main areas as our R&D activities. We are dedicated to solving pain points faced by our Business Units. When evaluating an innovation opportunity with a potential partner, we can leverage our internal expertise to determine the value and benefits for our group.

What is the key success for us regarding Open Innovation?

At the EDF Innovation Lab, we engage in Open Innovation for our Business Units. The key to success in open innovation from a business perspective lies in its ability to drive innovation and growth while reducing costs and increasing competitiveness. By breaking down traditional organizational boundaries and embracing collaboration, organizations can achieve better results and reach their business goals more efficiently.

If our efforts result in a new collaboration, the testing of a new product or service, or the discovery of a new solution provider for our Business Units, we consider it a success. Our focus is on addressing the main pain points identified by the Business Units, and through our external network, we work to find the best innovative solutions to resolve them.

EDF is a major energy company that owns and operates assets, develops new renewable and nuclear projects, offers energy retail services, and provides services to customers to reduce their consumption or transition to carbon-free sources. We need to innovate in many areas and business lines. In the US, we are proud to support our main business units, EDF Renewable and EDF Energy North America. We also look forward to accelerating innovation in the US entities of Framatome and Dalkia.

What is the main mission of the Open Innovation team at the Innovation Lab

Our primary mission is to understand the major pain points of the business units and aid them in accelerating innovation in order to stay ahead or launch new products and offerings. We utilize our network and the innovation ecosystem to identify major trends and new technologies.

Our expertise enables us to evaluate solutions offered by potential partners, such as start-ups, academics, or large companies, and choose the best ones. We are then equipped to guide our business units towards collaboration. We understand the unique aspects of each organization and facilitate discussions in a manner that leads to a successful partnership.


At the EDF Innovation Lab, we believe that Open innovation is a key strategy for organizations looking to stay ahead in a rapidly changing business environment. By leveraging the creativity, knowledge, and resources of a wide network of partners, organizations can tap into new sources of growth and competitiveness, and drive innovation more effectively than they could through internal R&D alone.


Olivier Deneux, Innovation Director