Manufacturing & the open innovation renaissance

Posted on 20 Sep 2016 by The Manufacturer

A communications and information-driven renaissance is driving a resurgence in open innovation, according to global crowdsourcing company, InnoCentive.

Prize competitions have long been used to solve problems and drive innovation: the 18th century Longitude Prize led to ships being able to better navigate the seas; the Orteig Prize of the early 20th century resulted in the first non-stop flight from New York City to Paris.

Despite this usage in the 1800s and early 1900s, prize competitions languished throughout much of the 20th century. However, a communications and information-driven renaissance is upon us; driving a resurgence in open innovation that is taking it from an occasionally-used, big-money governmental instrument of the past, to an everyday tool that is revolutionizing the way we work and innovate.

Microscope R&D Innovation Research Institute for Manufacturing
Since conception in 2001, InnoCentive has been at the forefront of this renaissance, expediting innovations through their Challenge Driven InnovationTM methodology.

Since conception in 2001, InnoCentive has been at the forefront of this renaissance, expediting innovations through their Challenge Driven InnovationTM methodology; positioning problems in a manner that elicits diverse solutions and, by offering prizes, drives solution providers to create ground-breaking results.

The InnoCentive global Solver network of 375,000 individuals and small companies has provided solutions to more than 2,000 Challenges and been awarded nearly $20m in the process.

Many organizations within the manufacturing and engineering space have embraced this tool already, recognizing the importance of connecting with talented individuals from outside their four walls.

Some have been public with their search for solutions, such as General Fusion who wanted methods for sealing anvil under repetitive impacts against molten metal, and the Ohio Aerospace Institute who sought cost-effective ways to reduce drag on legacy Air Force aircraft.

While others have opted for anonymity (made possible through InnoCentive’s Challenge Experts acting as a bridge between Solver and Seeker). For instance this Challenge that sought alternatives to the cord rubber structures commonly used in the hose and tire industries.

InnoCentive’s engagements with these fields are not just short-lived trials either; NASA has been partnering with InnoCentive for the past seven years, running more than 20 Challenges.

These range from ‘Ideation Challenges’ looking for ideas on flexible sealing devices for fabric materials, to ‘Theoretical Challenges’ asking for proposals for a dual-purpose dead weight used to balance spacecraft, to ‘Data-based Challenges’ looking for algorithms that can better forecast solar particle events.

In this last instance, the winning Solver came not from the space industry or a field that NASA would have predicted, but instead was a retired radio engineer with a past education in plasma physics.

If you would like become a part of this open innovation movement, or to explore how InnoCentive’s methodology and expertise, global Solver network, and purpose-built platform could help your organization, click here.

By opening up their innovation issues to the online crowd, NASA could reach an unparalleled diversity of viewpoints and importantly, move beyond the ‘usual-suspects’; finding the truly revolutionary solutions, rather than just incremental improvements.

While not postulating to be a panacea for all problems, crowdsourcing can offer answers by using prizes to incentivize people from around the world to engage with the issue and translate their expertise to the problem.

Other innovation methodologies may pin-point those perceived most relevant to the issue, but crowdsourcing is about transcending this narrow scope; tapping into a global network of solvers who offer unparalleled variance in expertise and novel perspectives to provide a plethora of solutions.