The benefit of a strong internal R&D for Open Innovation

Open Innovation has become a crucial aspect of business strategy, enabling companies to leverage external expertise and resources to drive innovation and growth. However, for companies to effectively implement Open Innovation, they often need to have a strong internal R&D function to support their efforts.

In this article, we’ll explore how internal R&D should not be seen as an opposite practice to Open Innovation but should support Open Innovation activity and help businesses stay at the forefront of their industries.

Developing a Strong Knowledge Base

One of the main advantages of having a strong internal R&D function is that it enables companies to develop a deep understanding of their industry and the latest technological advancements. By investing in R&D, companies can build their knowledge base, which in turn can be used to identify new opportunities for collaboration with external partners. Companies can develop expertise in one or multiple fields. This knowledge base, relying on experts, is particularly important when it comes to evaluating external solutions. An internal R&D function means that a company has internal expertise that can help them understand and evaluate external solutions more effectively. The company will be then able to focus its collaboration efforts with the most promising and relevant start-ups or innovative companies.

Fostering a Culture of Innovation

Having an internal R&D function can also help foster a culture of innovation within a company. By investing in R&D, companies demonstrate their commitment to innovation and encourage employees to think creatively and pursue new ideas. This mindset can then be applied to open innovation activities, where employees are encouraged to collaborate with external partners and share knowledge and ideas. This collaborative approach can lead to breakthrough innovations and help companies stay ahead of the curve. Companies with a strong R&D function are always seen as very innovative companies.

Creating Collaborative Networks

Another way that internal R&D can support Open Innovation activity is by creating collaborative networks. By working with external partners, companies can access a wide range of knowledge and expertise. However, to fully leverage this potential, companies need to have strong networks in place. Internal R&D can play a critical role in building these networks by identifying potential partners, establishing relationships, and facilitating collaboration. This network can come from R&D experts being renowned by publishing papers, attending conferences or being part of expert committees.

Accelerating Innovation

Internal R&D can also help accelerate innovation by providing a platform for testing and developing new ideas or labs’ facilities for testing new technologies. By investing in R&D, companies can create a dedicated space for experimentation and innovation. This can be particularly beneficial when collaborating with external partners, as it provides a place to test and refine ideas or technologies before launching them to the market. Additionally, by having an internal R&D function, companies can more easily integrate external technologies and ideas into their own products and services, which can help speed up the innovation process.

Building Intellectual Property

Finally, internal R&D can support Open Innovation activity by helping companies build their Intellectual Property (IP) portfolio. Through R&D, companies can develop new technologies and products that are protected by patents, trademarks, or copyrights. This IP can then be used to secure collaborations with external partners, as it demonstrates a company’s ability to innovate and bring new products and services to the market. Additionally, having a strong IP portfolio can provide a competitive advantage, as it can make it more difficult for competitors to replicate a company’s products or services.


At EDF, our strong R&D capabilities allow us to have expertise on every topic we focus on. We have about 2,000 researchers with high expertise in various fields, enabling us to find and understand the best technical solutions on the market, and identify potential partners for collaboration. By leveraging this internal knowledge, EDF can effectively evaluate external solutions and accelerate the innovation process through open collaboration. Our network of industrial partners and academics helps us connect with the ecosystem. Then EDF can use its facilities to test ideas or products at scale. Additionally, our R&D has built a vast patent portfolio, giving us a real advantage regarding the IP of the innovations we develop internally or with external partners.

The Innovation Lab in the US is a great example of how these synergies work. We are an outpost of the R&D in the US with experts working on R&D projects, analyzing the future or building new products to stay competitive. With our own expertise or with the support of our 2,000 colleagues around the world, it is easy for us to evaluate external solutions and connect with the right partners, whether they are very early-stage start-ups or big industrial or tech companies.

Therefore, if your company wants to embrace Open Innovation, it may be important to have the support a strong internal R&D division.


Olivier Deneux – Innovation Director