Accelerating Trust Through Telepresence: Relationship Resources and Triple Helix Dependencies for Co-creating Innovation

Martha G. Russell, Kaisa Still, Michelle Sellinger, Victoria Ryan

Strategic value creation networks have become critically important factors in technology development and social change. Trust building activities are critical in developing the relationship infrastructure of people, organizations and policies. Trust builds on personal familiarity and shared context, which is facilitated by personal presence. High definition video conferencing is a tool to enhance presence and build trust – across education, business and government relationships.

The July 14, 2011 workshop was sponsored by Cisco and Media X at Stanford University in conjunction with the Triple Helix IX International Conference. The distributed workshop was held concurrently at four locations: San Jose; London, UK; Barcelona, Spain; and Skolkovo, Russia. The Birmingham Science Park Aston, 22@Barcelona, and Skolkovo programs summarized local and global context and goals of their programs, the network of human resources on which their programs are based, and the activities that enable networking for global resources.

In Q&A session across all locations, participants discussed the types of remote meetings in which they see significant benefits from using telepresence. They described each region’s particular cultural practices that can be used to promote trust-building for developing business relationships.

Birmingham Science Park Aston

From Birmingham Science Park Aston, a science park without walls, insights included using telepresence in conjunction with the JANET Network and Tandberg, to virtually import management and investment participation in new startup companies. Of particular interest were collaborations for planning the new BSPA building, geography-independent mentoring, international speakers and conferencing without travel, connecting the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with school programs, and the International Investment Forum (IIF).

The IIF brings angel investors and investment organizations from Silicon Valley and London into dialogue and regular communication with Birmingham entrepreneurs to promote exchange and growth, opening venture investment opportunities in micro-multinational companies around the world, and creating an expanded playing field for investors and entrepreneurs. Mentoring relationships require a basis of trust, which can be more quickly established with telepresence than simply by email or phone communications. High fidelity communication technologies support high quality business interactions; it also engenders trust.


From 22@Barcelona, the objective is to promote the interface of triple helix actors in multiple location – connecting the world. This program is based on the premise that talent is the raw material of a knowledge-based economy; talent is looking for the best place for working and living; attracting talent requires not only environment and opportunities, but technologies like telepresence that allow local companies to work globally.

Telepresence plays an important role in global business by providing continuity in relationship development, optimizing time and resource investment in travel, when it is most beneficial. Challenges to global collaborators include the psychological agility to transition mentally and culturally as meetings shift to a variety of locations around the world – one minute talking with Moscow, one minute talking with San Jose. The DNA of the knowledge-based economy requires that talent, and the role of 22@Barcelona includes attraction, attention (such as LEGO games), and retention.

22@Barcelona is working with the international communities in Barcelona to help entrepreneurs bridge path dependencies to bridge local to global relationships. 22@Barcelona used Telepresence to introduce winners of a business plan competition to venture capitalists around the world. Local champions need professional-level global tools, such as telepresence, to establish trust relationships with potential investors.


At Skolkovo, the objectives include diversifying the oil-based economy. The initiative includes building university and business facilities, as well as cultivating participation from academic, business, and government groups.

While the physical facilities are in development to connect participants who live outside of Moscow, Virtual Skolkovo will be using Telepresence to enable networking, communication, and engagement among about one-hundred participant companies that are thousands of miles away from Moscow. Opportunities are under investigation to offer education and training across the vast distance of Russia in connection to key global locations. The intended outcome of Skolkovo’s initiative is to stimulate serendipity that will arise from foundational planning and institution building.

Trust is strongly culturally dependent, even across the Russian regions collaborating through Skolkovo. Energetic excitement, sometimes through technology such as telepresence, can accelerate trust-building.

Michelle Sellinger described the always-on telepresence coffee rooms that Cisco is using to connect locations, such as London and Amsterdam. She described Dialogue Café, a website connection that facilitates the ability for anyone anywhere to come in and have a spontaneous dialogue on an informal basis – movable walls. Cisco is advancing the integration of collaboration tools, such as Dialogue Café and Telepresence in combination with enterprise social software, to facilitate easy communication and networking for business development.

Stanford’s Dr Renate Fruchter described principles of trust-building in collaborative and mentoring relationships. In the context of a global workforce, people from different backgrounds are more frequently required to co-create solutions High-definition communication facilitates quickly understanding each others’ personal styles allow trust to form more rapidly, and allows team members to advance quickly to participation, engagement, and cocreation. Intentional and casual interactions across the informal to formal spectrum of communication are important for trust-building and are enabled through high-definition communications. Distance disappeared as the participants at all locations gave each other high -fives at the end of the workshop.

The Connected Learning Exchange, sponsored by Cisco, is open to all the broader education community. A recording of the conversation is available online (URL) and demonstrates how high fidelity communication enables interpersonal presence, including the acceleration of trust and the ignition of laughter.

A next meeting of the Innovation Ecosystems Network took place in September 2011 in Tampere, Finland, and the 2012 Workshop of the Innovation Ecosystems Network will be held at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo, Japan, on May16, 2012. Contact: *email address protected*.

Media X at Stanford University is a program of the H-STAR (Human-Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research) Institute, one of a handful of institutes whose interests can reach across labs and people in all departments at Stanford University.