This section presents the various forms of sourcing project development work, concentrating on seven channels, or sources, of external concepts. These are shown in the “External Innovation Channels/Sources” figure. The sources of external innovation are listed according to the maturity of the idea or stage of product development the channel or source is strongest in.

External Innovation Channels/Sources

The figure starts with universities or government laboratories where technology innovation is predominantly the discovery of a new material or scientific finding that requires further engineering work before a viable commercial product can be made. Access to such early work is important especially in areas where broad patent coverage can be obtained in nascent technologies.

Next comes venture capitalists and crowd sourced funding platforms whose specialty is early market development typically using agile methods to accelerate bringing the product concept to market for alpha and beta testing prior to full-blown commercialization.

The next channel utilizes external R&D talent to fill specific gaps in project teams. This approach is followed by research ecosystems which can fill specific project gaps, primarily facilities that come with access to specialized personnel and equipment.

Next are supplier partnerships to take advantage of existing industry channels and supply chains to rapidly supply components needed by the project teams.

At the bottom of this list are consumer portals were lead users come together as a community, either online or in facilitated conferences to rapidly design and evaluate new product concepts.

Each of these channels will now be discussed in more detail.