NYT on Open Innovation and the Innocentive model of distributed problem solving

Nytlogo153x23
The New
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
.

According to
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.

Solvers
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
.

This
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:

The article
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).

„The Foldit
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.”

In Foldit,
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.

“Our
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!

By | 2018-06-14T12:54:16+00:00 Juli 22nd, 2008|Open/User Innovation|

About the Author:

Frank T. Piller is a Co-Director of the MIT Smart Customization Group at the MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and a chair professor of management at the Technology & Innovation Management Group of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, one of Europe’s leading institutes of technology. Before entering his recent position in Aachen, he worked at the MIT Sloan School of Management (2004-2007) and has been an associate professor of management at TUM Business School, Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Economist, and Business Week, amongst others, Frank is regarded as one of the leading experts on strategies for customer-centric value creation, like mass customization, personalization, and innovation co-creation. His recent analysis of the crowdsourcing business model “Threadless” (co-authored with Susumu Ogawa), an innovative crowdsourcing business model in the fashion industry, has been elected as one of the Top-20 articles in MIT Sloan Management Review.