Open innovation at Cannes

Written on Thursday 14th July 2016

Open Innovation at Cannes

It’s amazing what we can achieve when we put our heads together 

There was a lot to take in at Cannes this year. The updated format meant there was literally too much for one person to see. Thankfully, the dedicated app let you create your own agenda of the juiciest sounding sessions, while the close proximity of venues gave the whole event a very fluid feel. With so much to digest, it was sometimes satisfying to simply step back and observe the throng, milling from session to session. So what sessions to see? 

A celebration of health tech

Saturday was a celebration of technological innovation, from life-enhancing apps, via AR and VR, through the mainstreaming of wearables to a glimpse into the mind of Watson – IBM’s cognitive system that’s learning, from the collective wisdom of physicians around the world, to provide diagnoses and even differential diagnoses with increasing and alarming certainty. 

A meeting of minds

Sunday saw a subtle change of focus – while tech-talk continued, what caught my attention was a string of sessions dedicated to the concept of collaborative innovation. While the idea of Open Innovation is nothing new, it was the considered, structured, focused approach that left me feeling inspired. We’re not just talking hackathons here – although there’s a lot to be said for getting a disparate group of like-minded talent together to crack the uncrackable – this is collaboration on an immense scale. Gathering heavy hitters from across the globe, to create seismic shifts in thinking that translate to practical progress on the ground…

Open Source Innovation – When Zeitgeist, MIT and Pharma Collide

Take this initiative by Novartis for example. Combining the brainpower of MIT, Google, Boeing, Health Unlimited and technology entrepreneur Yossi Vardi, they instigated a series of initiatives to tackle issues in COPD. The results were unexpected and created tangible outcomes. But key to the success was Novartis’ openness at the outset they would claim no ownership of the outcomes. This lifted the often hampering veil of cynicism, and allowed the group to be no-holds-barred in their pursuit of solutions.

A Moon Shot to End Cancer

So just how far can we take Open Innovation? According to Ronald DePinho MD, President of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the sky really is the limit. In this illuminating glimpse behind the scenes of Cancer MoonShot 2020 – a staggering initiative to ‘Making Cancer History’ – we learned of the unprecedented level of collaboration across pharma, academia, government, and scientific communities, with a focus to ‘win the war on cancer’ and get it to the point where it’s managed in the same way as any other chronic disease. 

The goal is ‘simple’ – to take a giant leap forward in cancer care by initiating randomized Phase II trials in patients at all stages of disease in 20 tumour types in 20,000 patients by 2020. These findings will inform Phase III trials and the ‘moonshot’ to develop an effective vaccine-based immunotherapy to combat cancer by the end of the decade.

#GameForGood: A quest to save the human mind

And finally, a double-whammy of Open Innovation… Developed by Deutsche Telekom in partnership with University College London, the University of East Anglia and Glitchers game developers, ‘Sea Hero Quest’ is a beautifully crafted mobile game that crowdsources oceans of data, to further the understanding of Dementia waaaay faster than would have been possible with traditional, lab-based techniques.

There are currently nigh on 50 million people living with dementia. In order to find a cure, we need to deepen our understanding of the condition and the workings of the human brain. One of the first noticeable symptoms is a person’s inability to ‘find their way around’. To understand the mental processes involved in navigation, Sea Hero Quest invites gamers to contribute to a huge data set by charting a course through increasingly complex waterways. All the while, the app logs their navigation decisions.

To date, over 2 million people have downloaded the game and played for a collective 555 months. This equates to almost 7000 years of data, with 2 minutes of play generating the same amount that would have taken 5 hours by traditional methods.

So where next?

These are truly exciting times to be in health and wellness. Brands are beginning to think beyond communicating clinical benefits and exploring creative ways to engage and converse. But it’s when that exploration opens up opportunities to solve real-world problems and effect real change that the magic really happens. If we further the focus of the brightest brains on practical problems with terrific technology, I can’t wait to see where we get to by Cannes 2017.  

If you would like to chat further, you can contact me at: AndyBell@LEC.London Andy Bell,

Creative Strategy Director at LEC and Partner at OPEN Health