Value Chain: Innovation through collaboration

A current VDMA study on the topic of innovations in mechanical engineering examines innovation-relevant expansions of existing value creation networks. It reveals exciting insights regarding the preferred methods. It also shows that cooperation in the value chain is gaining in importance. It is no surprise, since most companies lack the expertise and insight to master innovation processes on their own. At the same time, the challenges posed by digitalization and the circular economy are increasing the pressure for more innovation.


What can companies in the mechanical and plant engineering sector do to shape cooperation in value networks in order to generate potential for improvement in the innovation process? The German Federation Mechanical and Plant Engineering (Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau, i.e. VDMA) has investigated this question in a recent study.

This study is based not least on changes in value creation processes as a result of the digital transformation of the economy. This includes, for example, optimized production processes as part of Industry 4.0 or predictive maintenance, platforms and big data. Changes in value creation processes are also setting innovation processes in motion in the mechanical engineering sector of the packaging industry.

Key facts of the study

  • Due to constantly shortening innovation cycles, innovation processes must also be adapted accordingly.
  • Companies often lack expertise and insight to carry out innovation processes on their own.
  • Ideally, innovation takes place not only within a company, but also together with partners within the value network.
  • Companies can pool their resources through cooperation, tap into complementary competencies and thus accelerate innovation processes.

Relevant methods for the expansion of existing value networks

Based on the number of publications, the VDMA study specifically examines expansions of existing value networks that are relevant to innovation work. Open innovation platforms, incubators, accelerators and co-creation show the strongest increase. Platform-based ecosystems, on the other hand, are falling and only slowly rising.

How things were in the past and how they will be tomorrow

Early open innovation approaches have not been able to establish themselves in the packaging industry. In the past, corresponding attempts mostly failed due to the issue of intellectual property (IP).

Regardless of these experiences, innovation collaborations will prevail within the value chain. For the value networks of the future, not only open innovation platforms, incubators, accelerators and co-creation will gain in importance, but also the platform-based ecosystems which are currently still not as much preferred.

Regardless of the best method (also individually conditioned), one thing is clear: The challenges of the circular economy in particular cannot be solved at the level of the individual company. The golden recipe for success in innovation work is cooperation and collaboration as a value network.

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