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The Future of Jobs – Competition Producer

Technology keeps evolving and its impacts are felt not just in products and services but also in the way these products and services are produced. 

Companies are leveraging on technology to become more effective and to create newer products and services at a faster pace and at lower cost. They are also changing the approach to innovation. This is something we are seeing, promoting and leveraging at EIT Digital both in our activities and in the way we operate to foster innovation.

In the last century (that’s not long time ago!) big companies had their own “department” to produce innovation (the research team). Smaller companies had to settle for smaller innovation, sometimes bringing into the company new skills to convert an idea into a marketable product.

In the last decade we witnessed a dramatic lowering of transaction cost that has enabled outsider to create and to market innovation. Rather than having the “big guns” creating innovation in many market segments we have seen innovation being created by small companies and even individuals. The market of apps is an obvious example. 

What is lesser perceived is that also high tech components, like the ones ending up in a surgery room or in the making of a commercial jet, are often the result of innovation produced by small companies. The big ones often go on a shopping spree buying start ups and small companies to bring innovation in their product portfolio and in their production plants.

More recently we have seen the growth of xPrize like initiatives. Rather than investing money to create innovation inside the company, the money is placed to stimulate innovation on a competitive bases.

Do you want to get a much more effective aircraft engine? Why not opening up the competition to the whole world and see if someone may come up with a solution?

Do you want to find a way to counteract hacking of one of your product? Organize an open challenge to hack it and then to find countermeasures.

More and more companies are organizing these open challenges to boost their innovation capabilities (see clip for a challenge set up by one of EIT Digital Partners). At EIT Digital we run the Idea Challenges, where we can pick and choose the very best proposals to mature in commercial success.

In the future this approach is likely to become pervasive, spanning from innovative cooking to better learning. There is no area that cannot be tackled by opening up an idea competition. The trick, of course, is to make sure that moving from idea to implementation is feasible at low cost. This requires specific skills in the way the competition is set up. As we know, the question is usually more difficult than the answer, meaning that it is only through the crafting of the right question that you can get to the right answer.

Hence the new job of Competition Producer, people that will be in strong demand by several companies to craft the Challenges making sure that their result is usable.

This kind of job will require a good understanding of the “client” environment and processes (to decrease as much as possible the friction in the adoption of a “Challenge Result”), a good understanding of the technologies that may support / be part of the solution, and a knack for communicating and engaging people.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. He's currently Head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital, co-chair of the Symbiotic Autonomous Systems Initiative of IEEE-FDC. Until Aprile 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books. He writes a daily blog,  http://sites.ieee.org/futuredirections/category/blog/, with commentary on innovation in various technology and market areas.