Today during internet surfing, I stumbled upon web site of InnoCentive Inc and got to know about this interesting venture.
Founded in 2001, InnoCentive has built up a web-based marketplace, where organizations (called as Seekers) submit challenges for individuals (called as Solvers) to solve for financial awards along with professional recognition. InnoCentive's Seekers include commercial, government and non-profit organizations such as Procter & Gamble, Avery Dennison, Pendulum, Eli Lilly and Company, Janssen, Solvay, GlobalGiving and The Rockefeller Foundation. The company claims to have 172,000 registered solvers from 175 countries. Interestingly, till April 7, 2009, $4.1 million has been awarded for 472 solutions. Some noteworthy solutions are as follows:
- In November 2007, the Oil Spill Recovery Institute (OSRI) awarded $20,000 to John Davis for his creative solution for a challenge related to oil spill recovery issues.
- An electrical engineer from New Zealand solved the Challenge to create a dual-purpose solar light to serve as both a lamp and a flashlight to be used in African villages and other areas of the world without electricity. The seeker, SunNight Solar in this case, awarded $20,000 to the solver in March 2008.
- In late 2007, the TB Alliance, a not-for-profit organization, received solution from two solvers for a Challenge seeking a theoretical solution to simplify the manufacturing process of a current drug compound.
There are four types of challenges that Seeker can post:
- An InnoCentive Ideation Challenge is a broad question formulated to obtain access to new ideas. It's like global brainstorm for producing a breakthrough idea. The submissions are typically about two written pages.
- An InnoCentive Theoretical Challenge contains detailed solution requirements that Solvers must fulfill in their responses. A solution to a Theoretical Challenge should solidify the Solver's concept with detailed descriptions, specifications and requirements necessary to bringing a good idea closer to becoming an actual product or service.
- An InnoCentive RTP (Reduction to Practice) Challenge requires that the Solver submit a validated solution, either in the form of original data or a physical sample.
- An InnoCentive eRFP Challenge is a request for a partner or supplier to provide materials or expertise to help solve a business challenge.
The company has provided detailed instructions about IPR requirements for each of these types of challenges. The company earns its revenue from Seekers who pay a fee to post Challenges and, in some cases, also pay a commission on the amount awarded. InnoCentive does not charge Solvers to view Challenges and submit solutions. It also offers to R&D organization its product called InnoCentive@Work, which is a customizable internal web-based community platform.
With its 32 employees and venture funding of $16 million, InnoCentive Inc seems to be a company, which can't be ignored in current innovation-centric global business environment.