Engaging SMEs in open innovation: CLT’s corporate venturing tool

Client: FTSE 100 Chemicals Corporate


The client wanted to augment its strong on in-house R&D by partnering with the most promising entrepreneurs in order to develop new products and services. But it didn’t know what would attract a start-up, how to enhance its reputation as a ‘corporate of choice’, or how to extract the most value out of its in-house manufacturing and scale-up expertise.


CLT provided corporate venturing tools and shared how they could be used most effectively. We developed a detailed manual to systematise the corporate venturing process so the client could repeat it. We also developed a database of relevant UK SMEs and designed a closed competition to help the client engage with the most promising innovators.

The client was interested in partnering with SMEs to augment its innovation pipeline, but needed help getting started. It wanted insight into which innovation tools to use and how they could get into new markets. It also wanted to know which SMEs to target, what SME maturity level was most suitable, and how to engage with and select the most promising SMEs to partner with. The client sought to enhance its reputation as the ‘corporate of choice’ with start-ups, and to extract the most value from its manufacturing and scale-up capabilities.

CLT prepared case studies of other corporates that had successfully embedded corporate venturing into their innovation process and had capitalised on open innovation. We found that 40% of the 30 largest companies in seven innovation-intensive industries were engaged in this type of activity. We explored which venturing tools would best support the client’s innovation strategy and distilled best practice using corporate case studies.
We designed an SME engagement pilot to demonstrate how SMEs could be identified and engaged in joint collaborative activities.

To formalise this corporate venturing process, CLT wrote a detailed SME engagement manual so that the client could repeat the process in a standardised way in order to secure future venture partners. This included a process to design the SME outreach, screen the SMEs, prepare for a panel selection of the most promising companies and technologies, and select and partner with the best ventures.