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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Green Manufacturing > Product Development > Manufacturing Design & Engineering for Sustainable Business

Innovation of Innovation - Open Idea Mining to Global Thinkers

Companies (called seekers) work with InnoCentive to craft a well-defined challenge and pick a dollar amount for the award. InnoCentive then alerts its network of solvers, and those who engage in a challenge are given access to online project rooms...

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InnoCentive Meets Product Development Challenges with Online Network of Innovators

InnoCentive was set up by Eli Lilly in 2001 as an experimental way to farm out some of the giant drugmaker’s biggest product development challenges by posting them on the Web and inviting people around the world to submit competing solutions, with a substantial monetary prize as the reward for the winner.

Lilly spun out the company as an independent venture, and it has since diversified beyond the life sciences to a range of disciplines, such as computer science and cleantech.

Network of Innovative "Solvers"

InnoCentive is upgrading its platform and expanding its network of “solvers,” people who submit solutions in hopes of winning awards that range from $10,000 to $1 million. To date, solvers have collected over $3 million in awards, according to InnoCentive.

It works like this: Companies (called “seekers”) work with InnoCentive to craft a well-defined challenge and pick a dollar amount for the award. InnoCentive then alerts its network of solvers, and those who choose to engage in a particular challenge are given access to online project rooms containing proprietary details about the seeker’s project. At the end of the challenge period, the seeker evaluates the solutions and chooses one as the winner; InnoCentive then helps transfer the rights to the solution from the solver to the seeker’s organization.

It isn’t “crowdsourcing” in the typical Web 2.0 sense of throwing open a problem and soliciting thoughts and contributions from thousands of random Internet surfers. It would be more accurate to describe InnoCentive’s platform as a mechanism for soliciting RFPs (requests for proposals) from a much broader cross-section of experts than any company could reach through the traditional business consulting process.

InnoCentive CEO Dwayne Spradlin says, "it’s ready for prime time. In the past six months, we’ve added challenge categories including business and entrepreneurship, engineering and design, physical sciences, and mathematics and computer sciences. We’ve increased the number of tools we offer—we used to focus on deep research-type tools but now we also offer “ideation” tools that help large numbers of people brainstorm very quickly, and electronic RFPs so that clients can find business partners very quickly, and help managing intellectual property rights. So we’ve gone beyond the proof-of-concept stage to the stage of getting InnoCentive into the hands of as many organizations as possible."

Planet Eureka

Companies like Procter & Gamble use Innocentive’s system to find new product ideas faster than they might on their own, and the model has even inspired imitators such as Ohio-based Planet Eureka, which launched last in April 2008.

READ MORE: xconomy.com



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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