The Role of Startups in Collective Innovation Agendas: Case-study of Dutch Top Sectors Agri&Food and Horticulture
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With nowadays societal challenges, striving for optimised ‘directionality’ of innovation is more essential than ever. Mission-Oriented Innovation Policy (MIP), translates current Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into missions, which are believed to be achieved by a portfolio of research and innovation projects. MIP emphasises the importance of ‘challengers’ as well; parties that could bring ground-breaking innovations to the mix of solutions. In this regard, startups are frequently looked upon as potential vehicles for (radical) innovation. Yet, little has been examined about the role of startups in collective innovation efforts such as missions. Knowledge of how their potential contributions could be harnessed more effectively is limited as well. Therefore, this study examines the role of startups in collective innovation efforts, and it provides suggestions on how to improve their potential contribution. In the report, we assess their roles and contributions through a qualitative, exploratory study of past collective innovation efforts in the Dutch Top Sectors Agri-Food and Horticulture. Five clear roles through which startups contribute to collective innovation efforts for solving societal challenges have been identified: (1) filling market gaps and changing the supply chain, (2) developing and utilising new technology and knowledge, (3) doing risky, rapid and flexible value creation, (4) applying new technology in industries and creating crossovers, (5) challenging the established order, consisting of (a) systems and structures, and (b) innovation culture, attitude and the way of thinking. Startups contribute to collective innovation efforts via one, and often multiple roles, either consciously, or unconsciously. During the formulation of collective innovation agendas, a sixth role is fulfilled; the more indirect role of providing input via overarching representative organisations. Improving the representation is deemed necessary and could optimise the contribution of startups via their five roles. The improved startup representation and the insights in this report, could be of excellent help for improving the Top Sectors’ support activities to the five startup roles. Interviewees agree that the contribution of startups to collective innovation efforts, could also be improved outside the collective innovation agendas. The emergence and growth of startups, and therefore their contribution, can be better facilitated by improving the conditions in the overall ecosystem. This report provides many potential suggestions for that.