York Times today had a good new story on InnoCentive and open innovation via
distributed problem solving (or „Broadcast Search“, as our friend and
HBS professor Karim Lakhani calls it). Beyond sharing some information on
the state at Innocentive, it names a number of other recent examples where price
challenges are set up to work on tough scientific problems.
the article, InnoCentive has solved 250 challenges for their clients (meaning
that they have posted about 3 to 4 times as many) for prizes typically in the
$10,000 to $25,000 range. The achievements include a compound for skin tanning,
a method of preventing snack chip breakage and a mini-extruder in brick-making.
come from 175 countries. More than a third have doctorates, CEO Dwayne
Spradlin is quoted in the article, and while motivated by money, they also
have a desire to solve “problems that matter.” The outlook? By 2011, Spradlin hopes
InnoCentive participants will have answered at least 10,000 challenges.
demands some serious scaling up of the business model. But I
believe that Innocentive is on the right track and a great example of open
innovation, using the term beyond a new expression for traditional R&D
networks. Karim Lakhani is quoted in the article that
“most laboratories, most R &
D endeavors still work on the premise ‘we can accumulate and make sense of all
the knowledge that is relevant.’ The open-source models and a model like
InnoCentive show that other approaches can help.”
So, fancy some challenges to work on? Here you go: Today,
would-be innovators can sign up online to compete for prizes for:
- Landing on
the Moon (space.xprize.org/lunar-lander-challenge)
artificial meat (www.peta.org/feat_in_vitro_contest.asp).
- The National Research Council
recommended that the National Science
Foundation, the major government financing agency for physical science
research, should offer prizes of $200,000 to $2 million “in diverse areas” as a
first step in a major program “to encourage more complex innovations” addressing
economic, social and other challenges. (The report is available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11816).
- John McCain, the Republican
nominee for president, has proposed
that the government offers $300 million to whoever invents a battery
compact enough, powerful enough and cheap enough to replace fossil fuels.
also tells about a great project not know to me before:Researchers
at the Howard Hughes
Medical Institute and the University of Washington
began recruiting computer gamers to an online competition, named Foldit, aimed
at unraveling one of the knottiest problems of biology — how proteins fold (http://fold.it).
contest is a volunteer effort. It began as Rosetta@home, a project using
down-time of computers throughout the world to do the laborious calculations
needed to determine the shapes of proteins, strings of amino acid crucial to
the cells of every living thing. The way these molecules work depends on how
the strings fold, but calculating the folding is, as the Foldit researchers put
it, “one of the pre-eminent challenges of biology.”
players will compete online to design proteins, and researchers will test
designs to see if they are good candidates for use in drugs. The researchers
who worked to design it say results will also be interesting because people’s
intuition for protein folding does not seem necessarily to be tied to formal
training or laboratory experience.
ultimate goal is to have ordinary people play the game and eventually be
candidates for winning the Nobel Prize,” said Zoran Popovic,
a computer scientist and engineer at the University of Washington.“
So, in case
you are a good computer gamer, chances for a Nobel prize never were larger!