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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > Alan Shalleck-NanoClarity > "Open Innovation" Applied to Nanotechnology Commercialization

Alan Shalleck
NanoClarity LLC

Since the all bridging technology and manufacturing expertise is missing, I suggest a different approach to rapidly obtaining these two missing elements in every section of the nanotech industry. That new approach is called "Open Innovation" and it seems to work. In fact, it is a way of multiplying your development and commercialization efforts by using the Internet to maximum advantage and in a most innovative way.

January 29th, 2011

"Open Innovation" Applied to Nanotechnology Commercialization

"Open Innovation" Applied to Nanotechnology Commercialization
Alan B. Shalleck
NanoClarity LLC
January-February 2011

Nanotechnology needs a bridging process… a process to fill in the open spaces that lead to scaling up nanoscience developments and to commercializing nanotechnology developments. As I talk to those responsible in the nanotechnology space, I find a gap in understanding, in sense of need, and in implementation. The methods for commercializing most Nano developments … that is functionalizing a final design so that it fulfills a real need with potential customers that have a real requirement for the product, making the nanotech portion of the offering in abundance with consistent quality, and introducing a well planned, well marketed and well supported product offering … are juvenile,simplistic and/or missing from the nanotech company's outlook. There have been no "killer product" ' introductions and no rush to the marketplace from companies that have minimal revenues and are on life support. You would think these companies would find a way to put an early version of what they eventually want to offer into the marketplace to begin to generate revenues … but looking around one finds that the skill levels, the technologies to bridge the gap and the willingness to put out a less than perfect first offering just aren't there.

Since the all bridging technology and manufacturing expertise is missing, I suggest a different approach to rapidly obtaining these two missing elements in every section of the nanotech industry. That new approach is called "Open Innovation" and it seems to work. Open Innovation is uniquely using the Internet to develop innovative solutions to sticky business or design problems. OI harnesses the power of the Cloud to inexpensively and rapidly build your company beyond its current capabilities. In fact, it is a way of multiplying your development and commercialization efforts by using the Internet to maximum advantage in a most innovative way.

How does OI work. Here's an example. Recently, Amazon used "open innovation" to solve a vital business problem. Learn from its experience. Amazon IT needed a new algorithm for a vital function as it expanded. Instead of developing that algorithm with in house personnel, Amazon management took a very creative and modern approach to its need. It decided to see if ‘open Innovation" would get them a faster and better solution. Amazon management estimated that a development in house with overheads would cost about $1,000,000. Instead of setting a budget and assigning personnel or hiring externally, Amazon posted its need on the web in a world wide challenge to solve the problem for a reward of $1,000,000 for a correct and proven practical solution. Interesting eh? Well here are, I'm told the results.

The website posting the problem with its parameters and offering the reward quickly received over 65,000 viewings from all over the world. Amazon within a short time received over 5,000 possible solutions…a solution rate of over 7.5%... and well over a few thousand correct or useful solutions, one of which is currently running at Amazon reliably and well. Time for solution was about two months. That's mind bogglingly quick. Just look at how many ‘experts' worked on this in-house vital problem. ‘Open Innovation" won for Amazon and clearly proved its worth. I was impressed at how cleverly Amazon co-opted the broad technical capability that lives in the Web for the identical price it would have spent in-house with a "maybe" solution. 5,000 solution submittals all to get a prize and to solve a problem … both activities being important.

What does this imply for nanotechnology commercialization? Well, everything. It says there is a wealth of brainpower out in the cloud that doesn't work directly for you, but is willing and able to solve your most difficult commercialization problems ... scaling up in quantity, insuring high quality production manufacturing of nanoprototypes, conquering manufacturing and product bottlenecks and technical roadblocks, etc …. just for a little open advertising and a few … well may be not so few … bucks. With OI look at the technical capabilities you will be using. The entire technical world can see your need and possibly submit solutions. Somewhere in the morass of submittals may lie the key to your pitcher's box.

The lesson is clear. Leverage your commercialization needs by using the cloud as it was designed to be used…a connection tool to provide information and expertise not otherwise available. With OI, I firmly believe that you will accelerate your problem solution speed, you will get solutions you may not even have considered, and you will raise your probability of successful Nano product introduction and development of market share.

What you will have to consider in self-preservation is to work out an equitable way to manage the IP in OI … who will own the solution you may receive over the web… I suggest a royalty arrangement be part of your initial proposal on the web. You own the IP and offer the provider of the solution shares in the economic proceeds. Fair from the outset. Consider using Open Innovation on a sticky problem soon. You will be amazed at the positive result.

Last, a recommendation. I'm now a founding part of a new Innovation Institute at the Rutgers University Business School called the Rutgers Innovation Management Center (RIMC). It is led by one of the leading experts in Innovation Theory and Application in the US, my colleague, Deborah Dougherty, Ph.D. and is now open for corporate membership (low annual fee). RIMC takes seriously the need for new ways to innovate in the corporate world … RIMC's expertise is perfect for where our nanotech world is today. RIMC is in line with the call to the entire nation voiced by President Obama in his State of the Union Address. One of the best things this germinal academic institute has been able to accomplish for member corporations is to design successful and specific "open innovation" programs for technology companies who are stuck in their old processes. IRIMC has made a significant difference in development and commercialization programs for technological ventures and for larger companies wherever the RIMC program recommendations have been implemented. Open Innovation is new … but it works. If you don't want to consider OI in house, consider a membership in RIMC to get your feet wet and understand the open innovation process better. It can insure survivability in our increasingly challenging world economic environment. Let me know if you are interested.

Alan B. Shalleck
NanoClarity LLC

© NanoClarity LLC 2011

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