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PODCAST ISPIM FUKUOKA: CEO Russell O’Brien Discusses How to Create a Large scale Innovation Ecosystems

We are glad to present to you a special edition of our business of collaboration podcast. During three podcasts we will interview 3 keynote speakers and delegates of the ISPIM conference in Fukuoka, Japan on the second to the fifth of December.

ISPIM is the International Society for Professional Innovation Management. Its members represent many sectors, including the research, industrial, consulting and public sectors. The conference in Fukuoka addresses three critical challenges that are also of global importance:

  • How can we deal with ageing populations?
  • How should we transition our production and use of energy?
  • How do we build successful start-up ecosystems?

This is our second Business of Collaboration podcast together with ISPIM Fukuoka Conference, we interviewed Russell O’Brien CEO at Cognitis Innovation, and former Head of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at City of Auckland in New Zealand where he established a collaborative ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship.

We will talk about innovation, how to create large scale innovation ecosystems and what’s the key success factors are to established a successful ecosystem in a local region, as he said the start-up mindset in New Zealand is “Born Global”.

Russell is Irish born and living in New Zealand for more than thirty years, he is also living the whole year in Auckland paradise and goes on holidays back to his native Ireland, whenever he gets the chance.

We recorded an online podcast between Amsterdam, Leiden in the Netherlands and Auckland in New Zealand with almost 12 hours difference between Russell and us. 

In this section, we want to highlight the main lessons learned from our podcast conversations and create a snapshot of these interesting conversations with bright minds by providing easy key points and categories.

“First step, clearly define your ecosystem, second step, assess how to organize the defined group, third step, check that these groups work well together, and identify what their big challenges are



  • Define an ecosystem of a group of interdependent agents
  • The local and central government shall support this open ecosystem with policies.
  • Direct benefits: high-quality ideas, accelerated progress, solving problems quicker and sooner.
  • Indirect benefits: build the sense of common purpose and raise ambition across the group, create a community, independent of the economy group or brand
  • It can be expanded internationally and grow, it’s important to curate collaboration, catalyse the different groups and bring different groups together.
  • The first step, clearly define your ecosystem, the second step, assess how to organize the defined group, third step, check that these groups work well together, and identify what their big challenges are
  • We can sum up the ecosystem challenges for unique groups, guide the groups on their policy and strategy regarding innovation to make them more effective, another challenge is the lack connective ness and real collaboration, there are big gaps of the different groups coming together for a purpose of innovation.
  • Building a community of interest, that becomes alive on its own and is able to maintain itself. Then we can focus on supporting them in different areas.
  • Auckland ecosystem has mayor achievements: Techweek as an Innovation Festival, and the UpTown Innovation Hub in the City of Auckland.

“There is a lack of information what is innovation, and willingness to go out of the university to engage or connect within different groups”



  • Creativity is needed to generate ideas and business capabilities, then execute those ideas and finally deliver innovation.
  • Create ideation groups at universities, investors, entrepreneurs, start-ups and established businesses, infrastructure innovation providers and government agencies.
  • There is a lack of information on what is innovation, and the willingness to go out of the university and to engage or connect within different groups.

“Take time to get startups to understand the business, don’t fear sharing problems with startups or working with them. Listen more to startups what they have to say”



  • It’s a learning journey for corporates to realize that there are benefits to work with startups and how startups can solve business problems.
  • One key component is bringing people together and explain very well what is an innovative ecosystem, what are the ecosystem’s benefits and how the ecosystem can help the city and the business.
  • For a collaboration between corporates and start-ups, language is a barrier, because startups and businesses are not talking the same language. They have different priorities and agendas and they have to find their common ground to have a common understanding to improve collaboration.
  • Collaborations between corporates and startups can be made on business model innovation or can be technology-driven.
  • It takes time to get startups to understand your business, don’t fear sharing problems with startups or working with them. Listen more to what startups have to say.
  • Be nice when you are doing innovation, and learn something new every day.

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