Corporate Co-Innovation: What’s in for Corporate?

On the theme of corporate co-innovation, I had the opportunity to meet up with Dr Ryan Chaw, the head of External Technology Acquisition of Coca-Cola Asia Pacific.

Based at the ACE Co-Working Zone at the JTC LaunchPad@one-north, Ryan works closely with ACE to scout for startups that could co-innovate with The Coca Cola Company. One of the recent initiatives include The Bridge Challenge, a collaboration by ACE and The Coca-Cola company to drive corporate co-innovation between startups and corporate. In this interview, Ryan has shared his corporate perspective on how corporate co-innovation has benefited the organisation.

“Everyone sees The Coca-Cola Company as a beverage company. However, our innovations are not just about beverages but also looking into logistics, marketing and digital data. My role here is to discover new opportunities which we can tap on and how we can work with different partners to leverage on one another’s strengths. Startups are one of the partners we are actively seeking to work with”, said Ryan in this one to one interview.

“The Bridge Challenge is a positive start for us to work with startups and drive corporate co-innovation together. I have been working with ACE for about 3 months to put this together, from crafting the problem statements to reaching out to startups within the region and attracting the right startups to pitch at the Challenge. I am starting to see a positive impact on the company, and the selected startups have been in active engagements with my colleagues”

He added, “Corporate Co-innovation is a win-win approach for corporate and startups. Utilising a modern and unique approach, startups are usually very agile and quick in their thinking to solve issues. This is because they have different skillsets and expertise from traditional corporations that allows the startup to function efficiently. On the other hand, startups benefit from working with corporations as they would have access to a vast network of contacts that helps them in their business.”

However, collaborating with startups could also have its own set of challenges. Seeing that startups are of a different nature, there are bound to be different issues that would arise from working together. The most obvious would be the different styles of operation. Startups are much faster and can be very informal while the corporation is larger with more things to consider and can no longer take big leaps of faith in their development process.

Another issue could be the unfamiliarity of working with external firms. As employees of both companies are not used to working with members of companies with a different calibre, there could be potential disagreement between both parties. However, both issues could be easily mitigated through pre-project talks and ice breakers to clarify objectives and be aware of each other’s working styles. These talks could also include ways to complement each other’s working habits.

Corporate co-innovation is set to be a normality within the next few years in an increasingly globalised world. The 21st century is set to see a shift in paradigm to networking, collaboration to develop better products or services and sharing of knowledge. Companies need to tap on different expertise to create better solutions to stay ahead of the game. Hence, collaboration is crucial should any company want to maintain their competitiveness in the market.


The ACE Corporate Co-innovation programme is an initiative by the Action Community for Entrepreneurs (ACE) to link startups and corporate companies together to work on different ideas and innovations that would be mutually beneficial to both parties. ACE is currently on the lookout for any corporations and startups that want to further their company’s development through collaboration and would be glad to assist in the process through our programmes. For more information, please email us at info@ace.org.sg.

– By Brian Ong | LaunchPad Journalist at ACE