The State of Innovation, a global study and white paper from Unilever Foundry, the partner platform the FMCG giant launched in 2014, reported that 80% of corporates believe startups can have a positive impact on a large company’s approach to innovation.
At the same time, 89% of startups believe they are able to deliver business solutions which can scale. And 46% of startups who have not worked with corporates are likely to do so in the future.
“Collaboration can no longer be viewed as an optional extra, it’s a strategic imperative,” said Aline Santos, Unilever EVP Global Marketing.
“Startups are now widely recognised as invaluable sources of innovation, fuelling growth and providing pioneering business solutions.”
The white paper predicts that physical shared working spaces will become commonplace to facilitate growth and break down barriers to collaboration.
And it highlights three important reasons for working together: learning something new (startups 88%/corporates 85%); improving efficiency (startups 81%/corporates 81%); and solving business problems in new ways that can scale (startups 89%/corporates 80%).
The future will be less about short-term “tech tourism”, involving PR-driven trips by big businesses to tech HQs and informal partnerships, than longer-term models that will see them investing in structured programmes.
Unilever Foundry predicts that startup collaboration will become a necessity for corporates over the next five years, with around four out of five corporates (79%) and startups (78%) anticipating more collaborative work in the future.
And startups believe they are up to the task, with almost nine in ten (89%) claiming they’re able to deliver business solutions which can scale.
The notion of partnership was emphasised earlier this year by Kristy Vance, Unilever's Global Director/Media Insights, who told the ARF Annual Conference that the key to short- and long-term success rests with “the team behind the tool”.
So, at Unilever, a new piece of technology or a new kind of product is only a starting point. “What’s really important,” Vance explained, “is that team or that person behind an idea.
“We really do see ourselves as partners: If we believe in you and you believe in us, then we’ll help you. And you’ll help us along the way.”
Data sourced from Unilever Foundry; additional content by WARC staff