Sciclips's Blog

Is the term for current “open Innovation” misleading?

Posted on: October 13, 2009

InnovationIn recent years open innovation has become a buzz word for big and small business enterprises, and in course of time several open innovation service companies have evolved to help with open innovation for big companies.  The term “open innovation” is coined by Henry Chebrough1 and he defined it as “open innovation is a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology”. The idea behind this concept is to utilize the innovative minds of company in addition to the company owned R&D to generate ideas. In a glimpse of excitement, this concept looks excellent and seems to be helpful for generating great customer valued products.  If you dissect this concept much critically and thoroughly, you will find that current concept of open innovation practiced by various companies are flawed and are filled with selfish motivations at the cost of others’ innovations.

Challenges and dangers behind the current “open innovation” approach:

At present, there are several companies in the market who claim to support “open innovation” in scientific field. The current idea of open innovation is something like this:  an open innovation company post a challenge for an idea for a particular solution with/without an incentive on their website. Usually, thousands of people participate in these contests and hundreds or thousands of ideas were then generated and sent against this challenge to the website.  In best-case scenario, the seeker (for example, a big pharmaceutical or Biotechnology company) will select a winner and the money goes to the person with the best solution while the rest of the solvers get nothing. Moreover the solver has to give away all the rights to an anonymous company, as the solver will not have any idea about the sponsor of this challenge. The whole process is kind of “close” since there are no talks or open discussions about the winning idea or the ideas that did not succeed in the challenge. In the worst case scenario, after reviewing thousands of ideas, many a time, the seeker company can withdraw their challenge.

As we can see, out of thousands of entries one or two proposals may be awarded . Now the question is, what happens to the rest of the ideas that were submitted to the solution seeker. The problem solver will not have any information on whether the seeker will use the solvers’ ideas  for current or  future applications (modified or unmodified). Even though, the sponsoring company will give all the rights to patent and so forth. As we all know, even with proper documents there are misuse of good ideas especially when it comes to protection of intellectual property issues. Now, most of the time, the problem solver may not have the financial capability to apply for patents to protect his/ her ideas. In this present “open Innovation” model there is no way for the solvers to find out whether their ideas were used for filing future patents by the problem seeker.  In summary, the problem seekers or companies are getting thousands of ideas at free of cost (the award money is nothing by considering the career potential for individual seeker or the commercial success for the seeking company). 

Thus, the term for  current  “Open innovation” is very misleading. In fact, the approaches practiced  by most of the companies are not “real open innovation”, rather this approach uses others’ innovative minds for the benefit of a single person or an organization.

If we look at some of the companies like “Google”,  “Facebook”, “Youtube” or “Twitter” (to name a few), these companies do not protect their technologies with patents but the ideas or the technologies are open to all. There are many contemporary companies with similar models of “Youtube” or “Facebook”, which arose either earlier or later than these companies but due to competition could not stand out in the market.  At the same time, it is very hard to name a single big Biotechnology or a pharmaceutical company which are really open about its ideas or technologies. Using real “open innovation” where the ideas will come from all sectors: consumers, researchers, scientists and making these ideas/technologies public will not only generate more competition but also speed up the pace of generating breakthrough ideas. Instead of protecting the new discoveries with billions of dollars the competition from open innovation concept will bring down the cost of the product and raise the quality of the product. 

1Chesbrough, H.W. (2003). Open Innovation: The new imperative for creating and profiting from technology.  Boston: Harvard Business School Press, p. xxiv

Open Innovation @ Sciclips

At Sciclips open innovation platform (, the scientists, researchers all over the world irrespective of their field of research can post ideas in this platform. The main function for this open platform is to generate ideas that can be used for developing new tools and applications for various research areas like stem cell, drug discovery, proteomics, biofuel etc.  The ideas posted will be open to everybody for discussion, suggestions and modifications. Sciclips also has platform for posting ideas for some of the neglected diseases such as mosquito borne diseases like, malaria, dengue, and Tuberculosis.  Success of our open innovation platform may help in accelerating development of drugs for neglected diseases (which claims thousands of lives globally every year) by sharing ideas on stem cell or proteomics based therapeutic methods.


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