The Knowledge@Warton website has an article Innovation: Sometimes It Takes a Village that summary of a recent conference on innovation networks. The article covers the issues and opportunities of what we generally label “open innovation.”
Part of that discussion focused on the importance of collaboration — and how to manage that collaboration.
Part, however, was focused on a more arms’ length approach of what might be characterized as innovation markets — where a question or challenge is throw out for anyone to try to solve (FYI – the company InnoCentive runs a web-based service to administer this market).
Case in point: Twenty years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, as many as 80,000 barrels of oil remain on the floor of Prince William Sound because the oil has been frozen by sub-arctic temperatures, making it difficult to pump to the surface. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute, established by Congress after the spill, ran a $20,000 challenge with InnoCentive in 2007 to try to solve the dilemma, which had perpetually stumped the world’s oil experts. After three months, a construction engineer from the Midwest came up with the winning answer, surmising that vibrating the oil could keep it in a semi-fluid state, in the same way cement is kept flowing while it is poured into a form. Modify the drilling equipment, vibrate the oil and you’ll be able to pump it, he suggested. It worked.
So — what is the public policy needed to stimulate these innovation networks — both collaborative and “market”?