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The power of co-creation

24 March 2020

Comate & VLAIO

Recently, we talked with Agentschap Innoveren & Ondernemen about co-creation. Here you can find the result of the article with our tips to maximize the chances of a good collaboration, as well as a video about a few of our project we developed together with VLAIO. Read the full article here.

The Power of Co-Creation with 3 Powerful Tips

How do you work together successfully? What does and does not work? Are there any secret tips and tricks? Comate, recently awarded the UNIZO award "SME Service Company of the Year", can share how they perfected the skill of co-creation.

Three factors for success when collaborating with other companies:

Comate is made up of a team of engineers, product developers, and designers from Leuven. Their pitch: if you want to bring a new product out to the market, you need two things: technology and user expertise (in usability, design, styling, and more). Comate has both in-house. Intensive collaboration with start-ups, SMEs, and multinationals is in their DNA and is the core of their business plan. Comate does not invent or develop products itself. Sander van den Dries, co-owner of Comate says, “The easy food box from Mealhero or the autonomous lawn mower from Kobi… prove the power of collaboration to me. I have three golden rules that we adhere to at Comate.”

Tip 1: Complementarity is Crucial

Sander: “Why do companies work with us here at Comate? Because they can't do everything themselves, of course. Being technologically innovative, understanding the market, and including design thinking in-house? That is a lot to ask of a start-up.

With Comate, companies have access to an extensive team of engineers and designers. However, complementarity is a crucial factor for successful collaboration. If each company does not have any clear added value for the other, you can be sure that the collaboration is going wrong somewhere.

For example, Comate often collaborates with spin-offs. Naturally, they already have very competent engineers who build their Proof of Concept. This is often so complex that it becomes prohibitively expensive to produce. In cases like this one, our added value is industrialization. Can the number of parts be reduced? Can the assembly speed be increased? What is the best production technique and which suppliers can I count on? We are good at optimizing the process of turning a Proof of Concept into a viable product.”

Tip 2: Expectation Management and Trust

Sander: “Together with our partners, we make something that does not yet exist. It is impossible to predict how it will turn out or even whether it will work. You cannot make promises. It is a process that must be taken one step at a time, where you look at the results week by week. What is being achieved? What adjustments are necessary? New decisions are made continuously. This type of process requires a great deal of mutual trust.”

FOx Biosystems, a spin-off from KU Leuven, is a great example of this type of collaboration. They have developed a gold-coated sensor for the analysis of biomolecular interactions. Following favorable results in the test setup, we have developed a device to bring this to the market. Researchers enter their biological samples, the sensor measures all those samples, then delivers the results. In the first step, we visualized the potential device by means of 3D renderings, taking the regulations and user conditions into account from the outset. Such a visualization helps to convince the first investors. As a team, we decide what the next step will be. Both companies look at the possibilities with 1 common goal in mind: to make this device a success in the market. When you agree, it is time to start building the prototype. This particular prototype has already been further developed and is now a product ready for the market.”

"I consider VLAIO and their team of business advisors to be a great organization that stimulates innovation in Flanders." - Sander Van den dries, co-owner of Comate.

Tip 3: Open Communication

Sander: “Anyone who talks about trust and expectations is actually talking about communication. The more open the communication is, the better the collaboration is. Sometimes you have to be able to bring each other bad news: ‘it doesn't work (yet), a delay has occurred, an unforeseen error has occurred’, and so on.

If you cannot communicate that openly and decide together what is best for the product, it undermines the mutual trust necessary for a successful collaboration. If the communication is there, sometimes you can work wonders. For instance, when Mealhero needed a prototype for their press presentation on an ultra-short deadline. Within our broad network, we looked for a supplier who could respond flexibly to our needs. Ultimately, the deadline was met, the press was enthusiastic, and the start-up launched successfully.”

Also in need of assistance in guidance and advice about starting a company? Contact info@vlaio.be. Further into the process and in need of experienced engineers and designers to build your product? Contact us!