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Incubator or respirator? Why you need to change the way you innovate. Now.

To hone their competitiveness, companies today need to adopt the capabilities of an incubator.


Whether you call it research and development (R&D) or innovation, the approaches most companies use today to promote differentiation are obsolete. They exhibit the earmarks of pre-digital business: R&D is siloed within an industry and tends toward an “inside out” view of the world instead of one connected to cross-industry input.

Creating ground-breaking business opportunity and strengthening competitiveness requires new ways of working together that most traditional companies simply don’t have. Large companies need to get closer to new sources of innovation. Shifting from traditional static R&D models to incubator as-a-service approaches and gaining the innovation muscle of a startup.


Key Findings

Shifting from traditional static R&D models to incubator as-a-service approaches help companies gain the competitiveness and innovation muscle of a startup. According to Accenture research, 60 percent of executives surveyed are planning to collaborate with new digital partners over the next two years.

What does that require? Opening up to a new ecosystem of startups, customers, think tanks, suppliers and even competitors to create marketplace differentiation. Because one of the key roles of the incubator-as-a-service function is to bring an external vision of the entire market.

One advantage of startups is they’re not encumbered by legacy processes, systems and mindsets. They pivot quickly to respond to new opportunities and are by nature more adaptive to the frenzy of digital development.


There are five steps companies need to take:

  • Align your strategy and your incubator strategy: Incubation needs to be focused to avoid getting pulled in too many directions.

  • Position incubator-as-a-service at the proper level: The service needs to have a direct report into the board structure.

  • Adapt new capabilities: Including prototyping, financial management of innovation, connections to the outside world, analytics and big data capabilities.

  • Develop the ecosystem with the right partners: Once you’ve created the necessary internal processes and approaches, you’ll have the foundation for effectively collaborating with outside entities.

  • Incubate the culture: Gaining incubator-as-a-service requires changing culture.



Cédric Vatier


Cédric Vatier
Managing Director, Accenture Strategy

Cédric helps clients in the Automotive and Industrial Equipment industries design and deploy innovation strategies that allow them to compete more effectively in the global marketplace. He specializes in helping organizations develop new offering and product strategies, digital strategies, and innovation incubators that foster breakthrough thinking. Cédric is based in Paris.



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