AmCham Shanghai hosted a panel discussion on November 8 sharing lessons learned on driving innovation via “corporate incubation.” Panelists included Celina Chew, president of Bayer Group Greater China and chairman of Bayer (China) Limited; Kapil Kane, who leads Intel China’s internal incubator and accelerator program, called Ideas2Reality; and Gerry Guo, head of market development for Honeywell’s SPS Business Group. Caroline Pan, a seasoned technology sector executive and co-chair of the Entrepreneurship Committee at AmCham Shanghai, moderated the event.
The event started off with a brief overview from each panelist on their company’s corporate incubation program, including issues relating to organizational structure, investment, resources, and success metrics. A panel discussion soon followed where speakers addressed various approaches and methodologies to facilitating corporate incubation. Intel’s Ideas2Reality program, for example, focuses on supporting internal employees to commercialize new ideas that can then be integrated back into their mainline business units. Bayer’s Grants4Apps program brings external startups into their corporate offices for mentorship and exposure. Honeywell employs a combination of both of these methods, supplemented by seed funds, technology hackathons, and university partnerships.
Other topics that were addressed in the Q&A session included the increased willingness of MNCs to work with professional incubators to help them source startups and allow the companies to tap into a broader mentor network. The panelists also acknowledged that corporate incubation efforts are often embraced at the “top” (senior executives) and “bottom” (front line employees), but that it can be challenging to engage middle managers, in part because of how they are incentivized and also because of their daily workload.
Session participants also inquired about the incentives for internal startups to stay within the company rather than leave and form a new business; audience members were also curious how corporate incubators could measure their ROI.