Tag Archive for 'Invention'

Gleanings from X Prize/I2I

The Incentive to Innovate conference hosted by X Prize Foundation and British Telecom was held at the UN headquarters in New York June 8-9, 2009

The Incentive to Innovate conference hosted by X Prize Foundation and British Telecom was held at the UN headquarters in New York June 8-9, 2009

Enjoyed two days of open exchange around the role of inducement prizes to foster innovation, solve problems, and develop new sources of business value. Brought together by X Prize Foundation folks and British Telecom, Incentive to Innovate was packed with excellent panels and interesting folks w/a range of backgrounds – industry, non-profit, gov, academic etc.

Important to say off the bat is that one of the features I enjoyed most were the “break-out” discussions (NTS: need better physical setting), in particular one conversation centered on using prizes to address poverty and other development-related challenges. While the “product” of these conversations was centered on defining new competition space, they did surface interesting tensions and dynamics in approaches. One in our group was how you involve the beneficiaries in these competitions directly, so we break the mold of Northern winners, Southern venues. No solid answers, but I think Grameen offers a good, if “high burden” model of getting people out into the field – in this case to host conversations, sort of bridge the “customer-solver-inventor” gap.

Among those I found most helpful in applying their experiences to the Global Challenge:

  • Peter Diamandis, X Prize: Define the challenge in terms of measurables – specific. Think about not just producing a product, but catalyzing an entire industry.
  • Filippo Passolini, Proctor & Gamble: Don’t orchestrate – create a context for self-organization.
  • Paul Jansen, McKinsey & Co: Be prepared to support winners with follow-up eg getting innovations to market is an entirely different proposition.
  • Rob McEwen, US Gold and Marthin de Beer, CISCO: Have a plan for internal resistance and addressing organization culture.

Continue reading ‘Gleanings from X Prize/I2I’

Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Development Night

Joost Bonsen shared a great set of images from International Development Night last Friday. Over 500 guests joined the International Development Network for the Fourth Annual International Development Night at the MIT Museum on April 3, 2009. Coordinated by MIT’s International Development Network (IDN) –web.mit.edu/idn – the evening is a celebration and showcase of over two dozen practical, action-oriented development innovations and activities at the Institute.

Inducement Prizes and Innovation

Thanks to Erika W. at X Prize, am reading a recent paper by Liam Brunt (University of Lausanne), Josh Lerner (Harvard) and Tom Nichols (Harvard) which examines a 19th century data set to discern insight into whether prize-awards are a useful mechanism to encourage innovation. The answer seems to be yes.

Some insights:

  • Metric. The number of contestants the prize competition attracts. 
  • Entry fees. Discourage spurrious entrants.
  • Money and medals. Used as substitutes, gold medal having largest entrant effect.
  • Diffusion. Shows drew popular interest, spread of technical knowledge.
  • Patents. Prize winners much more likely to patent after show than non. Interestingly, doubling of monetary award increases patent activity 6-7 percent in the technical area in the year of the show, while a gold medal has a 33 percent effect.
  • Lead time. Providing longer lead times to inventors raised the number of entrants.

The paper concludes that, among other things, that the monetary awards covered only about one third of the costs of implements and machinery exhibited. More potent was the exposure from the show and “society’s mark of approval.”

March Madness: We’re Not Playing Basketball

[From Business Week] “It’s March Madness time, all right. But the competition in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington had absolutely nothing to do with basketball. This annual event, March Madness for the Mind, is organized by the National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), a network of more than 200 universities that promote innovation by underwriting and mentoring teams of college student inventors.

More important, the 14-student e-teams (and one high school team sponsored by a different NCIIA program) got to rub elbows with more than a dozen venture capitalists, who might help take their ideas from the lab to the marketplace.”

At least one team - Affordable Solar Thermal Microgenerator Technology for Rural Cogeneration in Southern Africa - is from MIT. Check out the great slideshow of this year’s inventions here.