CA Innovation Lab – Why using open innovation and how to enable it?

One of the platforms mentioned by Chris Cruz was the California State Innovation Lab which encourages California State employees to ideate, create, test and collaborate to achieve great innovations (  It can be seen as an open innovation approach, although it is limited to employees only. But what are the characteristics of open innovation, why should companies use it and how can the mentioned sandbox approach enable it? These question will be briefly answered in the following post.

Let’s first have a closer look at the Open Innovation paradigm which is known for more than 10 years and focuses on the idea that companies can benefit not only from internal resources but also from external ideas. Beforehand, innovations were led only by the research and development department within a company and a lot of investment was made before recognizing that the product invented does not fit the market needs. (

The Open innovation paradigm is the answer to the wide distribution of knowledge nowadays and the chance for companies to profit from it and drive innovations more effectively. Henry Chesbrough sees advantages regarding costs, time to market, market differentiation and additional revenue streams. (

In my opinion the California Department of Technology is using the CA Innovation Lab to break up predominant innovation strategies, which are driven by R&D Departments only and started a new way to innovate in terms of involving all employees in the process. As a consequence they are moving from closed innovations to open innovations. In his presentation Chris Cruz introduced the innovation lab as sandbox for open source. I wondered how this technology can enable Open Innovation successfully within an organization and which benefits it might have. Therefore my research focused on identifying the characteristics of sandboxing and the technologies used by California Department of Technology.

Sandboxing is an approach to secure critical system resources and applications by isolating other applications. To enhance the security, resources needed within the sandbox are explicitly allocated, which means the application is only granted to use specific memory and storage sections. The application itself is thereby not running on the system but within the sandbox. (

To sandbox their development environment the California Department of Technology is using a container platform called OpenShift. Within this environment employees get the chance to develop and test their ideas and more importantly they can showcase innovations to solve business problems in a secure way, especially regarding the governmental context and the security of sensitive data. (

Red Hat is providing the underlying container application platform OpenShift, which is a combination of docker and Kubernetes ( The docker technology is based on Linux and supports the independency of processes, so applications can run concurrent while at the same time keeping individual data secure ( Kubernetes on the other hand is an open-source platform developed by Google to manage these containers and automate operations ( OpenShift supports common programming languages, databases and frameworks, which enable a rapid application development and deployment using the above described technologies ( The rapid development is very useful in case of innovation processes, because ideas can be implemented not only faster, but also time-efficient and cost-reduced.

In my opinion the following advantages regarding Open Innovation can be achieved through using sandboxing or container platforms. As stated before the main goal of sandboxes in Information Technology is to secure critical data from unauthorized accesses. In terms of governmental organization a lot of personal data is stored. Through the sandboxing technology’s inherent characteristics it is easier to meet security criteria and furthermore setting up development environments faster, due to the support of common languages and technologies within the container platform. As a result the obstacle of implementing and testing an idea is lower and innovation is more likely, because many different ideas can be prototyped and evaluated. By establishing the Innovation Lab platform the State of California does not restrict itself to internal innovations but is benefiting from the knowledge and ideas of everybody employed in the California State government and willing to engage in innovating processes, services and products to support governmental purposes.

To conclude, an open innovation approach can bring innovations closer to market and help solving business problems within companies and governmental institutions more efficiently. A container platform can support this approach through providing a secure environment and common technologies available.


2 comments on “CA Innovation Lab – Why using open innovation and how to enable it?”

  1. Thank you Christina for this article!
    I like your point of view regarding the innovation lab. I believe we could even extend your thoughts by saying that this initiative aims at democratizing knowledge. Indeed, Chris Cruz also mentioned open source datasets available online and I believe such action also stimulates the innovation in CA.
    Therefore, do you agree with Henry Chesbrough on his point of view regarding open innovation? Especially when he states that “no company, no matter how capable or how big, could innovate effectively on its own.” (source:


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    1. Thanks for your comment, Victor. That is a really good question.
      I am not yet sure about his statement, but regarding the fact that many big companies start to build startups within their organization makes me think if there is truth in it.
      With these internal startups they try to innovate more independently from the strict processes and regulations they have especially within R&D.
      Moreover the market situation has changed over the last couple of years and is driven more and more by costumers. So yes companies should include outside knowledge to innovate effectively and solve existing problems to regard costumer needs.

      What is your opinion on that?

      Interesting article:


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