At the heart of the recent corporate innovation meetup was a debate question: Should corporations innovate from within, or is it more beneficial to acquire new ventures? This question sparked a vibrant discussion, addressing the difficulties corporates face in innovation and their responsibility to their teams, communities, and stakeholders.

There is buzz around Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) and mergers & acquisitions (M&A), illuminating the tension between internal entrepreneurship and the more well -known route of acquisition. It raised a critical point: is in-house innovation just a less attractive option compared to M&A?

There was much discussion which illuminated a potential reluctance within corporates to embrace innovation, possibly due to a misalignment with their rapid-paced business models. Yet, there’s a consensus that corporates should innovate to maintain a dynamic culture and not simply become ‘widget producers’.

From the software development realm, the advent of AI and Agile methodologies underscored the need for a transformative approach. Old school planning is out; experimental approaches are in. For businesses, falling behind is not an option; they must embrace innovation to remain relevant.

The discussion then shifted to the internal culture of innovation, crucial for staff retention and adapting to changing environments. Corporate innovation, therefore, isn’t just about finding and validating good ideas—it’s about creating a systemic, scalable approach that generates a volume of ideas to test and select the best ones. The real opportunity for growth lies in building unique perspectives by investing in businesses across multiple markets, creating new products and categories that offer a competitive edge.

Yet, the challenge remains in differentiating between acquisitions aimed at growth and those intended to hedge against market shifts. This is particularly tough when trying to introduce transformative innovation, which seems scarce in sectors like healthcare in Australia.

The discussion concluded that while acquiring may seem an easier route, it’s essential for corporates to innovate in-house. However, they should not do it alone; partnerships with academic institutions and leveraging external expertise can provide the necessary support. Corporates must learn to innovate amid disruption, and if they do not, they risk becoming obsolete.

Corporations should indeed pursue innovation, but they must do so with assistance. leveraging external partnerships, adopting new technologies like Gen AI, and cultivating a culture of intrapreneurship can guide them towards successful innovation. Corporates have a responsibility to innovate, not just for commercial success but to maintain a competitive edge, attract and retain talent, and meet the ever-evolving demands of their stakeholders.