Success Factors

The Innovative Ecosystem - Cross-sectional Collaboration

"Diversity is the mother of innovation" is a saying we strongly believe in. There are many inspiring collaborations throughout history that have created miracles.

Lennon-McCartney who together formed one of the world’s greatest songwriting partnerships in the history of recorded music. Or the extraordinary group of men and women, experts at crossword-puzzle solving, math and chess at Bletchley park that decoded the enemy’s secret messages during World War II. Together, these code breakers may have shortened the war by as much as two years. And, the brilliance of four scientists that cooperated to illuminate the structure of life: Watson, Crick, Wilkins and Franklin. Three of them jointly received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their 1953 determination of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).

To meet the future needs of humanity, we need to make use of the power of innovative ecosystem frameworks. Similar to the complexity, interdependence and dynamics of biological ecosystems, these innovative frameworks refer to complex, interdependent and dynamic environments in which innovators operate. The UN Sustainable Development Goals and dramatic technological development is forcing organizations to change. To accelerate the innovation capacity, we need new skills to share expertise and knowledge. If we gather top notch experts from different lines of business and academia, we will also gather diverse thinking skills that most surely will be driving new opportunities. An innovative ecosystem is a value-creating network, where all participants are bringing ideas from the forefront of their respective fields to the table.

Many of our respondents testify that successfully gathering a diverse group of cross-sectional experts demand a very clear and brave project management. We need to trust these experts, give them space to maneuver, break up hierarchies and handle diverse ways of thinking. We need a project management tool that handles the input and output of ideas and creativity. Creativity thrives in an open atmosphere but with a very fixed project plan and missions.

Create an open, learning, curious and inspiring project culture.


"During the big meetings with all partners it was important to focus on work, but also to have fun together in order to get to know each other. We went for site visits in the three ‘lighthouse’ cities and also trips to the ‘following’ cities. Even though most meetings were online, it was important to meet everybody in person in order to achieve a good cooperation between us."
Lisa Enarsson, GrowSmarter Stockholm, Sweden (GrowSmarter - - transforming cities for a smart, sustainable Europe)

"You can learn a lot from other disciplines. I am an economist, but I have worked with computer scientists, physicists, psychologists, anthropologists, etc. More collaboration is better even though you might have different missions."
Paul Ormerod, UCL Centre for Decision Making Uncertainty, UK (Feelgood Index)

"You build a successful organization by finding the right people and the right personalities, the right characteristics… curiosity, commitment, chemistry, guts to test, etc. Not only super-professional PhD’s, but a mix of people from different backgrounds, culture and ethnic origin. Then, these innovators must get the adequate resources."
Jan Hellåker, Lindholmen Science Park, Sweden (Drive me - Self-driving cars for smart mobility)

"The tech is not the problem - the biggest challenge is to improve the organizational ability to cooperate and share data cross-borders. Cooperation and sharing experiences within and between municipalities is key to improving this ability!"
Claus P Larsen, RISE, Sweden (City as a platform)

"We wanted to create an ecosystem for behavior change around individuals. As an infrastructure for behavior change (for people in risk groups) – doctors who provide individual advice, collaboration with gyms, etc."
Aslak Felin, RISE, Sweden (Health Movement)

"What we need is time and engaged stakeholders to perform an as big innovative project as the basic income experiment. We need politicians not only to plan but to listen to and trust the scientists and evaluate the effects for society. Beyond terms of office and political winds."
Minna Ylikännö, Kela, Finland (Basic Income Experiment)

"Leaders of an ecosystem should inspire and irritate to change. Collaboration is vital. The first years must show that it is fun to cooperate, there must be no hidden agendas. Now, almost no operational issues are discussed in the management team - just overall solutions and the cooperation."
Micco Grönholm, City of Helsingborg, Sweden (H22 and the making of a smarter city)

Top insights from interviews - When building and managing a creative and fruitful ecosystem network, it is important to:

  • Identify a clear and genuine shared vision.
  • Be prepared - have a project management and project plan in place beforehand to draw all possible future scenarios of the collaboration.
  • Collaborate with the complete group stakeholders as early in the process as possible. Representatives from relevant academic institutions, municipal, regional or national administrations, local or national politics, relevant actors on the tech scene, and potential other actors.
  • Ensure a clear distribution of tasks and short decision paths - in a diverse network, with actors from completely different sectors, there is often a substantial risk for decisions falling between chairs or getting stuck.
  • Create an open, learning, curious and inspiring project culture.
  • Have a strategy for how to handle cultural clashes and language difficulties.
  • Keep an eye on the needs of the end consumer - invite representatives from target group(s) into the ecosystem if possible.
  • Resources: Devote means for project management and administration. All parties should invest in this function, which should facilitate meetings and information sharing in the ecosystem. Perhaps it is valuable to use an external part that has no other tasks in the ecosystem.
  • Provide a strong and competent leadership. Offer training if necessary. In many cases, one visionary front figure seems to play a major role, but this implies that there is also a plan B if this person leaves.

If you are interested in reading more about innovative ecosystems, we recommend the following cases: Future homebuyers in the blockchain, City as a platform, Wild West End, H22 - The making of a smarter city, Kiruna Sustainability Center, Grow smarter - transforming cities for smart, sustainable Europe, Drive me, iWater - digital monitoring of water quality, and Health movement.