Increasingly, businesses are telling us “we don’t know what we don’t know”. Their problems, needs and objectives are not obvious or clearly defined. What is clear, however, is that their innovation efforts are not delivering the outcomes they need. In these cases, we adopt a co-innovation model, collaborating deeply with the internal team to challenge assumptions, uncover new and emerging problems and needs, generate hypotheses and future scenarios, introduce emerging technologies and co-create new solutions and value, which we jointly commercialise, often through a new venture.
Our client, the Adelaide Crows, knew innovation needed to be part of their culture and at the same time were under pressure to improve performance, both on and off the field. An innovation committee was established and despite monthly meetings, projects often stalled and were lacking some external help. They also needed external ideas and access to world-class research. In addition, some of the real opportunities in terms of brand, innovation and strategic alignment with the goals were missing. It was an important initiative that had the potential to engage the players and the team, but needed some help. It needed more than consulting help – it needed a partner.
The starting point for this journey, like so many others was an introduction through our networks and an informal conversation, during which the Adelaide Crows outlined their challenges and frustrations to us, though with little expectation that a University commercialisation entity could be of any real help.
Under a very loosely defined Innovation Partnership agreement, we went through a series of meetings which focused on exploring and challenging their business strategy, innovation objectives, core competencies and competitive advantage. To move quickly towards prioritising and progressing initiatives, we used Strategiize, a collaborative innovation platform developed by one of our spin-outs. This allowed the team to track and visualise projects as they progressed – or not – towards key milestones such as technology feasibility, market desirability, and business viability.
We particularly drilled down into factors affecting player performance and quickly uncovered a strong correlation between player hydration, high performance and game outcomes. From our client’s point of view, however, they were “all over hydration” and saw little potential for innovation in this direction. We knew this not to be the case, however.
As part of the Innovation Partnership, we had been scouting the University for projects and research with a sports or performance spin and had discovered some ground-breaking research in oral rehydration solutions. A team in the Flinders Medical Centre had uncovered a way to add resistant starch to liquid, allowing it to be absorbed in the large intestine, dramatically increasing hydration volume and duration. Whilst this was being developed for medical and clinical applications, we saw the possibilities this might offer our client to drive player performance.
We connected the research and the team to the organisation and there ensued a period of product testing and validation, during which the athletes undertook a highly successful product trial over a period of 3 weeks.
The product, a new Oral Rehydration Solution for elite and professional athletes is now in its final phase of development and a market-ready prototype is being developed in collaboration with an Australian manufacturer. We continue to work with our client and additional commercial partners on possible commercialisation strategies including both licensing and joint venture options across a number of possible product variations.
The Adelaide Crows gained significant new insights into player hydration and now hope to be able to minimise dehydration during training and games and accelerate hydration afterwards, giving them a competitive edge.
Work is continuing on adapting the research for non-medical applications, providing new avenues of research and innovation for the team and partners.
We are building new markets and revenues streams for our manufacturing partner and expect to spin-out a new, shared equity, venture to maximise the market opportunities, generating jobs and making a positive impact to the local and national economy.
We are now looking at new materials for Guernseys, new injury management techniques, and a range of new initiatives we wish we could talk about….but it is a partnership and by combining these ideas with the testing environment and brand of the AFC – it looks set for both team reputation success and commercial gain.