The Mack Institute’s Collaborative Innovation Program (MGMT 892) connects students with business leaders and researchers in the study of innovation management and its practical application. Through this program, students collaborate with our corporate partner companies to address existing challenges within their organizations. If you are interested in applying for Spring 2022 CIP, please check back in late fall for information about the next round of projects.
Find an overview of the Collaborative Innovation Program, a recording of a 2021 information session, a syllabus, and student experiences here.
The application process for Fall 2021 CIP is closed.
Fall 2021 Projects
To read the full project descriptions, click the titles.
1) Assess the Development of an Innovation Management System in a Technology and Semiconductor Equipment Firm
Company A is a global leader in technology development and manufacturing of equipment and services for the semiconductor industry, serving an estimated $1B market. It is based in the US with over 1000 employees worldwide and a global support infrastructure supporting customers in 32 countries. The company’s headquarters include an advanced research center with customer demo and applications capability, and a world class cleanroom manufacturing facility. Through the last decades, the company has been growing its installed base of over 3000 tools worldwide with new flagship products.
Like many companies in the tech sector, Company A needs to innovate and push technology to stay ahead of its competitors. It has, for the last few years, been implementing a company-wide open innovation initiative with encouraging results, in addition to reforming processes within the dedicated technology development workgroup. The company would benefit from independent and external vetting of its fledgling innovation management system.
As part of a spring 2021 CIP project, a CIP team studied and evaluated the company’s innovation management system. The team recommended several improvements and in response, Company A has started to implement these recommendations. The present project is a follow-on project, where the project team will evaluate the impact of the recommended actions. The team will also provide a new assessment of the company’s evolved innovation management system and further actionable improvements.
Objectives and Deliverables
- Leveraging the work of the previous team, gain a thorough understanding of the company’s business model, business and competitive environment, organization and strategic goals.
- Review the suggestions for improvement of the company’s innovation system from the previous team, and gauge the company’s response actions with innovation metrics.
- Compare the present state of innovation management with best practices and evaluate the innovation management system’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Provide a final report with actionable recommendations for further enhancement of the company’s innovation system.
- Evaluate the organization structure’s fitness to innovation and explore re-organizations to promote the innovation process.
2) Unstructured Data Handling - Pivoting from “Data-Rich” to “Data-Driven” Healthcare Organizational Strategies
Company B is a large information management and digital services company which connects technology, processes, and people as to help business work smarter, makes data accessible faster and with more actionable insights. Company B serves 21 of the 32 largest non-profit hospital systems, 9 of the 11 largest for-profit hospital systems, large number of leading university hospital systems and U.S. Veterans Administration in the U.S.
According to IDC approximately 80% of the data in US healthcare is unstructured data (fax, notes, pdf, images, emails, paper-based documents etc.). This makes it very difficult to reliably related patient information from various sources to generate timely insight to improve patient care, reduce errors and improve operating efficiencies for health systems.
Current unstructured data handling technologies have low first pass success rates, are resource intensive, and difficult to scale to address regional & local variability of plans, regulations, laws, and patient population. The existing AI approach of using Natural Language Processing (NLP) & Machine Learning (ML) has not made much difference to address this challenge in time, resource and cost-efficient manner.
Objectives and Deliverables
- Scan the market for ground-breaking, differentiating technologies which are ready for the real world and can be deployed at scale
- Identify 5-6 use cases producing exponential benefits to health systems by solving unstructured data challenge and explore viability of value-based pricing
- Identify the 2-3 most suitable technologies and implementation approach to drive significant cost & time reduction deploy the technology
- Approach to overcome from the challenges to drive initial adoption in healthcare
- Adjacency of the technology and GTM approach for other sub verticals of healthcare (Payers, Life Science, Manufactures and Suppliers)
3) Creating a Sales Strategy That Expands Reach to High-Growth, Unicorn Companies for a Global Software Firm
Company C is a multinational software company serving more than 437,000 customers in over 180 countries. It is a market leader in enterprise application software, providing the intelligence to bring together operational and experience data. By leveraging innovative technologies in the domains of machine learning, IoT, and advanced analytics, Company C aims to help the world run better and to improve people’s lives.
With over 100k employees globally, Company C is a market leader in enterprise software applications with a robust sales organization. Its technology enables customers to operate profitably, adapt continuously, and make a difference. Year after year, Company C has relied heavily on its top companies to generate revenue. Recognizing the need to change this strategy in order to grow, Company C is shifting focus to expand to net-new customers, in particular companies that are considered high-growth/unicorns (valuation over $1B). Understanding that this is new territory for our sales organization, how can Company C successfully reach the future wave of fortune 1000 companies?
Objectives and Deliverables
Structure an action/recommendation that can be reviewed with Company C’s President of North America that addresses the following:
- What do unicorns that are growing at an exponential scale look for in a technology partner? How can our established company adapt its sales/marketing model to be a trusted partner to net new unicorns?
- The firm’s current sales/marketing model is built for customers who know our company and have used our products before. How can the firm enhance its presence in the marketplace to attract net-new customers?
- Currently, the net-new teams use different techniques for success. How can the firm formalize this process for growth and consistency across teams?
- What is the optimal skill set and GTM structure for our net-new team?
4) The Impact and Role of Climate Change and the Race to Net Zero in the Technology Industry
Company D is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. It deploys resources for protecting people, managing risk, safeguarding capital and preparing for recovery. The company advises clients across the Technology, Media and Telecommunications industry on people and asset related issues and risks.
The project is aimed to build on climate issues raised in research conducted in Mack Institute’s Spring 2021 CIP for the TMT Futures Report project, and will involve examining the issues and explore the strategic role, responsibility, and opportunity for tech companies, their customers, insurers and investors and regulators to identify how the industry looks to effectively address system-wide climate risks (see highlights in text below).
Objectives and Deliverables
- To create a report (PowerPoint or Word) that provides their thoughts/opinions across the following areas that consider Climate Risk and The Technology Industry: The picture today and managing NOW for the Future.
- Create/outline a high-level framework of suggested strategic actions and questions technology companies specifically should use to better integrate climate into their forward-looking strategies. Base said framework on the outline below provided by Company D.
- The “five question” approach to addressing climate pressures for technology clients – see example for Banks shown in the Appendix below.
1. What are the key pressure areas driving climate action for technology companies?
2. What approaches should they deploy to alleviate these pressures?
3. What actions must they deploy to make these approaches real?
4. What challenges will they encounter in deploy these actions?
5. How can Company D help address and overcome these challenges?
- Why Climate and Corporate Resilience increasingly go “hand-in-hand”
- Acting now for the long term – What should a strategic response look like?
- Identify and share/provide examples of corporate actions and initiatives in the sector and that specific companies are undertaking: Examples include: Working groups, TCFD responses, PPP collaborations, investor engagement, targeted products/services, targets and commitments?
- Why is financial disclosure (ex. TCFD) of growing importance to tech industry? How well prepared are tech companies?
1. State of the Industry/climate pressure and industry response
2. What are the primary barriers and opportunities for the technology industry related to Climate Change.
3. How is the sector currently thinking about/responding to climate challenges across the dimensions of Regulatory, People, Risk, and Capital?
4. How could/should the technology industry respond?
Above inspired by this existing Company D content on how they are providing insight for strategy, planning, and facilitating the human change needed to address key climate “pressure areas.”
5) Identifying Market Trends and Aligning a Distributor’s Value Proposition for Growth
Company E is a leading North American distributor of metalworking and maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) products and services. Company E is a $2.9 billion firm that helps customers drive greater productivity, profitability and growth with over 1 million product offerings, inventory management and other supply chain solutions, and deep expertise from more than 75 years of working across industries.
Approximately 50% of total Company E’s revenue comes from metalworking product categories which tend to be highly technical. In order to drive disproportionate growth to the market, the firm is reviewing its Metalworking business strategy to better understand recent changes in both the customer and market landscape and needs to identify emerging trends that are potential headwinds and tailwinds to performance in the market.
This project requires an understanding of the North American metalworking market including key competitors, impacted end markets and current and emerging trends (including potential COVID impacts). Company E believes that over the last 5 years, the market dynamics have become more fluid and as such the strategy must be continually reviewed and potentially adjusted. This project will have the team focus on emerging Manufacturing Trends and the alignment of those trends to the firm’s existing value prop and identify potential whitespace, as well as headwinds and tailwinds to growth.
Objectives and Deliverables
- Identify emerging trends (3-5 years out) within the durable Manufacturing end market as they relate to Metalworking products and services. Potential areas of focus (in no area of importance):
- Impact of electric vehicles and autonomous cars
- Medical manufacturing
- Individual company Winners/Losers
- “Reshoring” of Manufacturing
- “Buy American”
- Based on those trends, overlay the firm’s current Metalworking value proposition (will be provided to the team) vs the direction you see the market going and identify the key differentiators and gaps within that value proposition within specific key end markets (already identified by the firm) and against specific competitors, or type of competitor or any areas where we have blind spots and might need to adjust focus.
6) Consumer Research and Product/Service Strategy for Smart Home Technology
Company F operates three franchise brands that are the leaders in the home service trades industry (HVAC, electric, and plumbing). These brands are part of a larger family of companies owned by a major British private equity firm. With over 350 franchisees across these three brands, the owners employ over 4,000 personnel across North America. The franchise employees provide services to their clients largely in a one-on-one setting in the home and have varying levels of education/certification; the service providers include Master electricians, plumbers, and HVAC technicians. Target customers include homeowners, property management companies, and small businesses.
In the United States, there are currently 139 million homes, and the number is expected to grow to 166 million by 2050. Only 24% of homes currently have products installed that monitor key equipment in the home such as HVAC, thermostats, plumbing components, and electric systems. With the advances in technology, homes owners will continue to install products that make it easier to operate the home in an efficient manner. This indicates a clear opportunity to consolidate smart home technology to have a single point of contact in the future.
With the smart home market somewhat fragmented, the company seeks to: (i) understand what smart home technology products in the trades arena are important to the homeowner both today and in the future and, (ii) to better develop and bundle its smart home products and services for homeowners. As related to the 3 business areas (HVAC, Plumbing, Electric), gauge interest in:
- Efficiency of operating units
- Live 24/7 Monitoring access via app
- Water leak sensors, automatic shut off valves, and usage monitors that alert a homeowner of potential damage
- Monitoring electrical currents in the house via app to identify potential hot spots that may cause fire damage
Service Strategy: Would a homeowner be willing to use one provider to provide a one-step solution to smart home technology and ongoing monitoring services? What are the most desirable ways to bundle smart home services for homeowners to embrace a one stop solution?
Objectives and Deliverables
The project deliverables should ideally enable Company F to optimally develop and package any desired smart home technology products to homeowners across the country.
Deliverables include but are not limited to:
1. Market overview and opportunity size for smart home products in the trades services.
2. Identify current landscape for smart home technology products and future needs of homeowners.
3. A product strategy to offer bundle package of smart home technology, positioning, and pricing; so that the company can guide its franchisees better on their go-to-market strategies.
Students can conduct both primary and secondary research. The company will provide access to franchisees for research as well as to third party product vendors if needed.
7) Investments in Corporate Bonds vs. Municipal Bonds: Advantages & Challenges
Company G has an extensive network, with over 24,000 plus branches in India, 59,000 Pan-India ATMs and 198 overseas offices spread over 37 countries having the largest presence in foreign markets among Indian banks. The firm is one of the top 50 global banks with assets worth more than USD 531 billion, 209,572 employees, 500 million customers and 740 million accounts. The US branch is FDIC insured and offers a suite of services to clients by dedicated verticals for Corporate Credit, Trade Finance, Deposits and Remittances, Correspondent Banking and Treasury.
The firm’s New York branch is a single branch set up, with a New York State license. Company G is exploring the how it might expand its investment in corporate bonds vs muni bonds. While risks are relatively low for municipal bonds compared to corporate bonds, revenue bonds are more vulnerable to market climates and economic downturns. Corporate bonds, however, carry increased risk and thus incur a higher interest rate to compensate.
Objectives and Deliverables
The project should provide insights on the size and depth of the municipal bond market in New York State and beyond and include:
- A framework for assessing and ranking investment choices based on credit ratings and credit profiles of potential firms
- Recommendations for making investments in municipal bonds vs corporate bonds from both a yield and tax advantage perspective
- Benchmarking how investment in municipal bonds has been either beneficial or detrimental for peer institutions
- How might the firm develop strategies for anticipating and strategizing for challenges that arise when making investments in municipal bonds?
8) Identifying Emerging Technological Innovations from the University Ecosystem and Developing Models to Partner with Higher Education to Facilitate Commercialization Efforts
Company H is a leading global digital infrastructure services provider. It provides integrated, globally managed technology solutions that underpin today’s fast-growing digital economy. The company is shaping the future by investing in emerging innovations in the areas of IoT, Edge computing, Next gen connectivity, security and predictive analytics using AI.
Company H is launching an initiative to widen engagement within the university ecosystems at the forefront of innovation. The goal the project is to create greater corporate foresight and engage early on in new areas of research and development in disruptive technologies and breakthrough innovations emerging out of the university systems. Research required for this project will include determining the current state of university/corporate engagement across select universities and higher ed systems, along with primary research with commercialization practitioners on both sides.
Structure an action/recommendation plan that can:
- Identify major universities and ecosystems driving the most disruptive innovation
- Study and compile new research areas being pursued and developed within these universities, with specific relevance to the telecom industry and Company H
- Detail research areas use cases, patented technologies, and potential impact of commercialization
- Research start-ups coming out of the university system and best practices in engaging with schools in getting access to these early innovations
- Develop a pitch and help to model the initial reach out to selected tech transfer offices to test out value proposition and engagement models.
9) New Organizational Models for a Financial Services Venture Team
Company I drives value for the bank and our clients by incubating digital products and partnering with external organizations and other Company I teams. The Studio division combines a diverse background with multidisciplinary capabilities, including: Data, Product, Strategy, Innovation, and Education. The team analyzes technological, behavioral, and societal trends affecting economic vitality to identify discrete areas where Company I can drive change that helps people and communities thrive. Studio focuses on new products and projects that drive economic development, workforce development, and emerging technology.
Company I’s Ventures Studio is looking to reorganize its operational structure. The team is moving into new focus areas such as sustainability and ESG, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and Blockchain, to name a few. Although these operate under the broad themes outlined in Studio’s background, the team is looking for a new way to be modeled going forward.
Objectives and Deliverables
This project requires identification of a new organizational model for the Company I Ventures Studio team.
- Research into other financial services and corporate innovation groups, as well as case studies of successful groups with similar missions, will be helpful when designing a new structure.
- The recommendation should be for a new organizational model that can be used to segment Company I Ventures Studio’s different focus areas and teams to be more streamlined and allow for cross-functional collaboration.
- In addition, a critical piece of the objective will be to recommend an operational model that allows for external partnerships as well as the ability to influence innovation internally at Company I across different internal teams.