Archive for the Tag 'InnoCentive'

Innovation: Harnessing 3.8 Billion Years of R&D

Point: If you’re stuck on how to solve a problem, see if nature has already solved that problem.

Story: Nature has already solved many challenges; the best solutions have survived and improved through evolution.

Consider this example: termite mounds such as those of the Macrotermes michaelseni exist in African environments where the external temperature varies from 35°F at night to 104°F during the day. The living areas inside the termite mounds, however, maintain a constant internal temperature within one degree of 87 °F, day and night.  Millions of years of evolution perfected the termites’ construction habits so that their mounds’ passive solar design and networks of air conduits create a self-cooling ventilation system.

How can humans put this termite-inspired solution to use? Architect Mick Pearce collaborated with engineers at Arup Associates to design a mid-rise building in Harare, Zimbabwe, called Eastgate, that has no air-conditioning, yet stays cool. The Eastgate Center is the largest office and shopping complex in Zimbabwe, but it uses only only 10% of the energy of a conventional building its size. Not only is this good for the environment, but it lowers costs for building occupants. Eastgate occupants pay 20% lower rents than do occupants in nearby buildings pay.

How did Pearce design this building? He looked a 3D digital scans of termite mounds, manipulating them in computer models to understand how the tunnel system works to exchange gases and regulate temperature and humidity. It turns out that the termite mounds operate on a system of convection currents that draw air at the lower part of the mound down to the bottom and then exhaust heated air to the top. The termites open and close ducts by digging new vents and plugging up old ones.  At Eastgate, Pearce installed electronically-controlled fans on the first floor to suck in outside air and then push it up along a central spine, venting it through chimneys at the top.

 

Action

  • If you have a problem to solve, think about the plants and animals that may have had the similar problem. Look to sites like AskNature.org or the Biomimicry 3.8 Institute
  • Study nature for inspirations and ideas that you can adapt
  • If you don’t have time to do this yourself, consider holding an innovation contest with InnoCentive, NineSigma, or Yet2.com to solicit ideas from biologists, oceanographers, etc. who could apply knowledge from the biological world to tackle your problem.

Sources:

Janine Beyrus, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, chapter 1

Biomimicry 3.8 Institute

Abigail Doan, Green Building in Zimbabwe Modeled After Termite Mounds | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

No Comments »Case study, How-to, Innovation

Innovation-Inspiring Prizes

Point: Use open innovation challenges and prizes to inspire solutions, participation and collaboration from employees, partners and customers

Story: In 1919, New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig offered a $25,000 reward to the first person who could fly nonstop from NYC to Paris. Although various people tried, no one won the prize until Charles Lindbergh in 1927. Orteig’s prize, in turn inspired the X PRIZE foundation to offer the Ansari X Prize: a $10 million award in 2004 to the first team from private industry to devise a spacecraft capable of carrying three people 100 kilometers above the earth twice within two weeks. The goal of the prize was to spur private investment and develop a commercial space industry.

Erika Wagner, executive director of the X PRIZE Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spoke about how prizes like the X PRIZE are useful to embolden entrepreneurs to take big risks. And, the fact of the substantial prize means that funders and financiers take notice. Ultimately, 26 teams competed for the Ansari X PRIZE and in the six years since the prize was awarded, more than $1.5 billion dollars in public and private funding has gone to support the private spaceflight industry.

Companies from Toyota to Eli Lilly to SAP have run challenges and offered prizes as part of their open innovation efforts through partners like InnoCentive. SCA, for example, a large, international consumer products organization, achieved a return on investment of 74%, with a payback period of less than three months as a result of using InnoCentive Challenges for open innovation in a major R&D division of the organization.

Some of the benefits of prizes are:
• Increasing the number and diversity of the individuals, organizations, and teams that are addressing a particular problem
• Paying only for results
• Attracting more interest and attention to a defined program, activity, or issue of concern (1)

I’ll be sharing more insights about prizes and ideas from the Innovation3 Summit in Orlando Dec 8-10, 2010 in the next post.  For now, here are some action strategies.

Action:

  • Word your challenge precisely, around a well-defined problem, to get focused, on-target participation
  • Think through all phases of the prize: how will you announce it? How will you determine the winner? How will you follow up to implement the idea?
  • Be transparent throughout the process, explaining the criteria for selection of the winners, who will be selecting the winners, announcing and awarding the prize(s), etc.
  • Acknowledge all participants, thanking them for their contributions and giving feedback to those who did not win, providing them with information that may help them in future challenges.

No Comments »Entrepreneurs, Growth, How-to, Innovation, open innovation, Productivity, R&D