Community Forum – Open Innovation Firms

Resource Type
Survey (Community Forum)
Innovation Research Interchange
Open Innovation and Contests
Associated Event

What is Your Experience with Open Innovation Firms?

What has been your experience (positive or negative) using Open Innovation firms (i.e.: Innocentive, Nine Sigma,; others) to communicate technology needs and find open innovation partners? – Lawrence Gollob, Director of R&D, Georgia-Pacific Chemicals, LLC

Community Responses

Director, Large Chemical Company
We have worked with NineSigma and all in all had a very positive experience. What we liked about their process is that you have some control over the partner selection process. They also are very good at helping you craft an RFP. In particular, their folks are very good at getting at the basic question behind a problem and not presupposing a solution, which is a common situation with technical folks. We probably underestimated the time and manpower required to review proposals once they come in, so plan accordingly.

We have also had a number of discussions with Innocentive but never found the right project for them. Yet2 has not really risen to the top in our assessments.

A general observation is that while at one time NineSigma and Innocentive had decidedly different offerings, they have slowing ‘expanded’ their offerings such that they are getting more and more alike. 

Paul Germeraad, IRI Emeritus
I have had a design and ongoing discussion with these providers.   My thoughts would be that you need to think of the kind of question you want answered and who might be have the best resource.  My understanding and perspective is:

  • NineSigma
    • Mostly Independent Industry Consultants And Some Universities
    • Human System To “Match” Entities; Pay For Time
  • YourEncore
    • Mostly Retired Employees
    • Human System To “Match” Entities; Pay For Time
  • Innocentive
    • Mostly University Personnel – Eastern Europe & India
      Internet Posting; Pay Only For Solutions

For, their model has been changing so I can’t really comment. 

John Tao, Vice President, Open Innovation, Weyerhaeuser
The most important issue is to know what problem you want to address and how you want the IP treated. Nine Sigma most likely will find you responses (proposals) that will do research to get at the solution; you have to negotiate the terms that you can with the provider. Nine Sigma will get their fee/commission depending on the deal. With your Encore, as stated here by other responses, you have retirees that may have the solution in their past experience, if so, you could get an answer/ solution quickly with no IP issues, no additional research. With Innocentive, some solution providers will have the answer but most likely a proposal will be submitted to do work. As Paul pointed out, you pay for what you contract for and IP is to be negotiated. Yet2 has changed more towards a service offering as well as a VC investing model. They can provide a service to market your IP or look for a solution, in addition, Ben tells me they have been successful in taking equity in some new novel energy technologies. 

Keith Spitler, R&D Fellow, Technical Operations, Bayer MS​

  1. We have been experimenting with InnoCentive for about 18 months now. Although their account managers have been very helpful in writing challenges, their model of selecting between theoretical, ideation, and eRFP has led to confusion on the part of the Solvers and restrictions on the types of responses we get. We have found that, even for theoretical challenges, most responses lacked significant technical content. We sensed that the amount of the awards we have offered, $15K – $30K, were far too low to attract “quality” solvers. However, significantly larger awards would require ROI values that would involve core company process problems. For such problems, we would typically turn to more traditional open innovation arrangements such as University partnerships and joint development agreements. We also found InnoCentive’s process to be hard to follow, with awkward interaction between challenge owners and potential solvers, and their web site lacks good project management tools for tracking project status, solver responses, and challenge vetting.
  2. We have been using NineSigma mostly as Solvers and find their process to be an excellent “marketplace” for problems that offer potential new markets and applications for our products that we had never considered.
  3. Although not strictly a “technical” innovation provider, we have also had some great experience with the Gerson Lehrman Group. They have a network of consultants, industry leaders, and key stakeholders that have provided extremely good information and insight on issues that are new to our business. Their annual subscription fee gives us access to excellent project managers who guide us through the problem definition and their website has excellent project management tools. Use of their network experts is pay-as-you-go with clear up front cost structures. We have found that experts are much more willing to give quality feedback on our questions when they know that they are being compensated.
  4. Although we have not engaged their services, Gen3 Partners has made interesting claims about “teaching in-house experts to innovate” rather than cast important problems across the internet’s world wide web and hope for the best. We would be very interested to hear if any other members have heard of Gen3 Partners or had experience with their methods (based on TRIZ).

Have a response to add?  Email us!