Posts Tagged ‘open innovation’
15Megan Jones

Megan JonesApril 2, 2014

Technoport 2014: Lauren Anderson on the game-changing power of collaborative consumption

At the end of April innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders and other technology pioneers will gather in Trondheim for Technoport 2014. In the run up to this exciting event, we will publish a series of interviews with our speakers to learn more about how they are driving innovation. This week we hear from Lauren Anderson, Community Director at the pioneering shared economy organisation Collaborative Consumption.

1. How would you explain “collaborative consumption”?

We describe collaborative consumption as the reinvention of old market behaviours such as bartering, lending, swapping, trading and exchanging – but this time they’ve been reinvented for the Facebook age! Social, mobile and location-based technologies are enabling us to share and exchange all kinds of assets now – from physical stuff to less tangible things like time, skills and space – on a scale and in ways that wouldn’t have been possible even 10 years ago.

2. How is collaborative consumption disrupting existing models of doing business?

We are already seeing collaborative consumption disrupting established 100-year-old industries such as car manufacturing, hospitality and even banking by putting the power in the hands of the people. These new technologies are not only more efficient and often more affordable, but they also provide more authentic and personal experiences over mass-produced and standardised, which is something people are hungry for these days. Having said this, there are many ways that existing companies can, and should, get involved in understanding how this consumer shift might affect them, and what they can do to maintain relevance and build brand loyalty with these new consumers.

3. What are some examples of different types of businesses that are leading this movement?

In our directory of examples we have documented more than 1000 examples of collaborative consumption globally, and have found examples in more than 100 countries. But while there are many small local marketplaces in this space, there are also some bigger global companies who operate across a number of continents.

Airbnb, the p2p accommodation marketplace, is arguably the biggest collaborative consumption platform in the world, behind sites like eBay. TaskRabbit and similar task marketplace platforms have been hugely successful. Carsharing and bikesharing platforms are up and running in hundreds of cities around the world, transforming the ideas of mobility. And for a local start-up, EasyBring is a collaborative distribution service, or ‘crowdshipping’, tapping into a network of deliverers who can send packages for others.

4. Cities are also getting involved – tell us a bit more about that.

Cities look after a lot of the regulation at a local level, and in many cases collaborative consumption companies are not adequately dealt with in the current legislation, causing a lot of uncertainty and fear. Other than that, there are many ways cities can adopt collaborative consumption-based models to supply services to residents and also build a culture of empowered citizens rather than a passive community. We expect to see many cities following the likes of Seoul in South Korea, and Portland, Oregon, to really make Shareable Cities part of their mandate.

5. What role can collaborative consumption play in overcoming global challenges such as climate change?

As an example, most collaborative consumption platforms are focused on maximising the ‘idling’ or underused capacity of the things around us – ensuring that the things we own are used to their full potential. Other platforms are dedicated to the redistribution of stuff from where it’s not wanted to somewhere it’s needed, extending the lifecycle of products otherwise headed to landfill. And perhaps most importantly, collaborative consumption encourages people to consider whether they really need to buy something new, or if there are other ways they could access it, which might involve connecting with other people in the community.

6. Where do you see collaborative consumption going in the future?

In the future, we definitely see that there will be much more involvement from existing organisations, as well as local and even federal governments, as collaborative consumption becomes a much bigger part of the consumer ecosystem. We will start to see the most successful models of collaborative consumption being scaled and replicated around the world, and local economies will be strengthened through these new ideas. Ultimately we believe that we will be able to reduce our reliance on the consumer machine, and that we will be able to restore the balance of community and contribution that we are missing today.

Want to hear more?

Lauren will feature at our Troublemakers event at Technoport 2014. She will elaborate on the topics explored in this interview as we showcase stories of some of the individuals behind disruptive companies. Learn more about Technoport 2014.

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4Rob Moore

Rob MooreFebruary 21, 2014

An Introduction to Crowdsourcing (Part Two): Crowdsourcing Platforms for Global Challenges

An Introduction to Crowdsourcing (Part Two): Crowdsourcing Platforms for Global Challenges

Last time, we discussed the history of crowdsourcing and its emergence as a tool for innovation in the 21st century. Today, we look at some of the major platforms used by crowdsourcers to bring people together to tackle innovation challenges.

Using web-based platforms, Innocentive and OpenIDEO offer to match research problems with a worldwide network of potential solvers.

Innocentive provides an outlet for research and development companies to offer bounties for scientific innovation by members of its community. The idea is that by sharing problems previously confined to a closed research department, companies are able to efficiently and economically find innovative solutions to research problems that are impeding development.

The challenges posed on Innocentive are diverse, and successful proposals have ranged from facilitating clean up of the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill to the identification of a biomarker which helps trace the development of ALS, a degenerative disease characterized by loss of motor function. The potential for the Innocentive model to overcome disciplinary boundaries has been well illustrated in a study conducted by Karim Lakhani and his research partners. They investigated the outcomes of 166 Innocentive challenges and found that community members working in fields not directly associated with the challenge were more likely to offer successful solutions than those already working in the same discipline. Also, more than half of the successful solvers reported that they had reached their solution by modifying previous work, either of their own or of others. This implies that solutions that already exist in the sprawling pool of modern research are being disregarded because they do not happen to exist within the realm of interest of organisations.The winning solver of Innocentive’s Exxon-Valdez clean up challenge was John Davis, a serial problem-solver who applied principles used in concrete pouring to devise a system for separating oil and water. This was after years of stagnation and failed innovation from the oil clean up industry.

Significantly smaller than Innocentive, OpenIDEO offers a user-friendly platform that aims to tackle broad social challenges through community participation. Its 58,500 members tackle diverse challenges in social, environmental and economic fields through collaborative learning and design principles. Its outcomes have included potentially life-saving increases in the number of individuals registering for bone marrow donation, the on-going creation of an app for political activists to covertly raise the alarm if they are taken into custody, and improved facilities for pregnant women in impoverished neighbourhoods of Colombia.

Whilst Innocentive and OpenIDEO offer explicit crowdsourcing platforms for educated users, crowdsourcing technology has also been used far more discretely to channel the time and energy of non-specialist crowds for social benefit. Cancer Research UK have tapped in to the growing appetite for simple mobile gaming by developing Genes in Space, a game which allows users to conduct simple but time consuming research into cancer genetics whilst appearing to collect a fictional substance known as ‘Element Alpha’. The disguised coding of the game creates an army of casual cancer researchers, freeing up time for professionals to get to work on more complex tasks.

Whilst the complex nature of modern science means that some sub-division of expertise is necessary – Trondheim’s own NTNU, for example, has over 90 research divisions, each with a designated focus – crowdsourcing enables expertise to pass through the walls of these divisions without interrupting their function. In an increasingly complex world, crowdsourcing creates a new ecology of knowledge. There is a saying in English that ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’.  Today’s solvers create novelty out of nothing, simply by looking in the right direction and adding a little twist of imagination.

11Annette Hovdal

Annette HovdalSeptember 19, 2013

Open innovation – innovate our way to the future?

Big companies, like IBM and Google, are looking to open innovation. Open innovation platforms, like InnoCentive, outsource innovation problems to the world public to solve. Why this focus on open innovation?

The short answer is as follows: companies are looking to open innovation for faster development and market launch of new products and services, and to diversify risk and the sharing of both market and technological uncertainties of innovation. InnoCentive crowdsource innovation problems to the whole world via an online platform, so that the smartest people in the world can compete to come up with the best ideas which will solve problems that matter to business and society.

Technoport has invited Dwayne Spradlin, CEO of Health Data Consortium, to come and hold a Technoport Talk on open innovation. Spradlin is the former President and CEO of InnoCentive Inc., the crowdsourcing pioneer connecting corporations, government, and foundations to a global network of innovators over the internet. Spradlin’s Talk will take place during “Topplederkonferansen” at NTNU, 15 October.

Spradlin croppedSpradlin will give us insight into the open innovation model, a model more and more used during the last decade. He will talk about crowdsourcing; give good examples on how this works, and how the company leaders at the conference could use this and proceed to formulate their problem accurately in order to improve the quality and efficiency of their innovation efforts. Technoport find Spradlin’s thoughts and knowledge on this topic inspiring. We believe that open innovation is a way to innovate faster and better.

The conference is for invited only, but we will of course film Spradlin’s Talk, and share it with you. In the meantime, let us get to know the terms open innovation and crowdsourcing better.

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Photo by: Matt Richardson (CC)
5Erling Hess Johnsen

Erling Hess JohnsenJuly 4, 2013

Open-sourcing hardware

Is your tech business best served by protecting your intellectual property rights (IPR)? In fact, sharing your IPRs can improve innovation and even be good for business.

We usually link the term “open-source” to software, such as Linux or OpenOffice. But an Italian team of engineers have proved that the concept of open-source can also be applied to hardware. In 2005, the university teacher Massimo Banzi and his fellow researchers designed and developed a micro controller, which they named “Arduino”. Their plan was to build a cheap micro controller that their engineering students could use for their projects. One of Banzi’s grad students was assigned with developing the programming language for Arduino. Though intended as a low-scale projects for their students, the team suddenly realized that their device was so simple to use, that just about anyone could make electronic devices with.

What is special for Arduino, though, is that the project was open-sourced from the beginning. The team published all the schematics and plans for the micro controller on the internet, and gave anyone permission to produce and even sell Arduino boards. The only thing they reserved, was the company name “Arduino”, in order to separate originals from potentially cheap knock-offs. The word spread quickly, and Arduino became a popular device for hobbyists, building everything from home-made drones to Twitter-connected plants.

Creating a community
As Banzi said himself in an interview with Wired, you’d think that open-sourcing hardware is basically inviting competition. That’s true. But even though others may reproduce, sell and profit from producing Arduino boards in low-cost countries like China, the Arduino team still run a pretty good business. They have managed to create a community around their micro controllers. And as the inventor of the device that drives this community, you will become the point of gravity. Though the hardware itself might be produced better and cheaper by others, you still possess knowledge, expertise and credibility which provide unique business opportunities.

Still, open-source hardware is far from being the norm of technology businesses. David Mellis, who developed the Arduino programming language has argued that open-source hardware is a moral imperative, given the enormous role technology play in our lives. Producers of technological devices cannot prevent people from cracking open their smart phones and televisions in order to modify improve them, so isn’t open-source hardware simply inevitable? Is it possible to develop sustainable business models for open-source hardware? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

For more information about Arduino, check out Wired’s excellent piece on Arduino, or watch Massimo Banzi’s TED Talk: