Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tapping the Crowd for Innovative Answers

Crowdsourcing trailblazer InnoCentive was founded in 2001 to help commercial, non-profit, and government organizations find better solutions to their problems. The first online global community for open innovation, InnoCentive currently boasts 250,000 registered solvers from about 200 countries; members include entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, inventors, and other professionals. To date, more than a thousand public challenges have been posted and solved, and a total of over $35 million in cash prizes have been given out. NASA, The Economist, Procter & Gamble, Life Technologies, and Booz Allen Hamilton are just some of the organizations that have turned to the platform to innovate with less time, cost, and risk.

In 2006, non-profit Prize4Life offered the first million dollar prize on InnoCentive for the advancement of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research. A fatal neurodegenerative disease, ALS causes nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement to stop functioning, affecting more than 600,000 people around the world. Prize4Life launched its challenge to speed up the development of a biomarker, the discovery of which will allow biotech and pharmaceutical companies to develop treatments for ALS. Five years and countless submissions later, the $1M ALS Biomarker Prize was awarded to neurologist Dr. Seward Rutkove of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Other notable problems that were solved through InnoCentive include the creation of an effective, two-in-one solar light for people living in rural parts of the world; the cleanup of the remaining oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill; and the enhancement of an existing drug for tuberculosis.

InnoCentive also provides an open innovation environment for internal, employee-focused challenges, allowing organizations to make the most of their internal resources. The Waltham, Massachusetts-based company is currently headed by President and CEO Dwayne Spradlin, who previously held leadership positions at Hoovers Online and VerticalNet Inc., among others. Last year, he co-authored the book, The Open Innovation Marketplace, with InnoCentive co-founder Dr. Alpheus Bingham.

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