The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered new levels of cooperation between competitors – so called coopetition.
Coopetition is not new. Businesses already use it to solve complex problems more effectively and spur faster adoption of new technologies. For example, Ford and GM teamed up to develop nine and ten-speed transmissions to dramatically reduce the risk and cost of a massive project. Tesla open sourced its electric car patent portfolio to encourage faster adoption of electric vehicle technology by competitors.
The pandemic has made these efforts more urgent. Numerous examples of how coopetition facilitates faster development of tools to fight the pandemic have emerged in recent weeks:
A consortium of 15 life sciences companies, including Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, and Sanofi are sharing their proprietary libraries of molecular compounds with available safety and efficacy profiles. This may result in preclinical trials starting in as little as two months.
Apple and Google are planning to co-develop a smartphone platform to help public health authorities track the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Medical-device company Medtronic is joining forces with University of Minnesota and the rival Boston Scientific to quickly design and manufacture an open source makeshift ventilator made from available parts.
Companies still care about protecting intellectual property. However, the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that even the most competitive enterprises can put aside their protective tools and collaborate to solve one such an urgent challenge. Common threats can override trade secrets and even profits.
Are there other problems that might be better solved through coopetition? Should Nokia, Blackberry, and Ericson (the big names in mobile phones before the iPhone) have built a shared operating system and marketplace rather than pursuing their own projects? Can industries that Amazon has not so far disrupted – like Banking and Insurance – find a way to defend their positions through coopetition?
This crisis is an opportunity to throw out the rule book!
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