Innovation Management's 5 Must-Haves

Innovation Management’s 5 Must-Haves

Innovation Management's 5 Must-Haves

The best and only chance to innovate is by creating project teams comprised of the professionals with the collective skills to design and produce what the customer needs.

Good managers can manage anything, right? Not so. Managing innovation is a world apart from the days of traditional top-down styled organizations.

Here’s why. Savvy stakeholders know that only a laser focus on happy customers translates into sustainable success and significant market share. And in our highly competitive, fast-paced global economy, only innovation as the norm attracts and retains happy customers.

Let’s take a look at innovation management’s five must-haves to create an enterprise in which innovation is the norm.

1. Project teams

Erase that old organization chart from your mind—and more important, from the minds of your employees.

The best and only chance to innovate—really to develop any new product or service virtually defect-free and at the lowest cost possible—results from creating project teams comprised of the professionals with the collective skills to design and produce what the customer needs.

If the designers are sitting in a room talking only to themselves, the engineers may develop a process that skews the desired outcome. The defective product then has to be retrofitted or redesigned. Ask Fiat-Chrysler how that’s working for them now that the National Highway Safety Administration has fined them $105 million.

Project teams ensure that the design and the process to develop the product will work hand-in-glove and produce a successful outcome the first time. Cross-collaboration and teamwork have built-in course corrections along the way.

2. Risk takers

There used to be a certain comfort level in narrowly defining your own role and the role of others. That old org chart was safe.

Innovation, on the other hand, is messy. It’s fluid. Embedded in an innovation culture is a collective willingness to turn away from the well-worn, safe path and embrace test after test—even persist—when an idea seems worthy of the effort.

Innovation management calls for deciding which ideas merit a serious collective investment, and then rewarding collective risk taking along the way.

3. Adequate resources

If you have watched TV’s “Shark Tank,” you know how often entrepreneurs have a recognizably novel idea but virtually no sales. Why? They don’t have the capital to push enough product to test the marketplace’s response. Do they get a deal in the Tank? Almost never.

Adequate resources is not the same as an unlimited supply of resources to ensure the product’s success. It requires instead that the C-suite and the Project Manager develop a realistic budget that reflects what the project team needs, in human and other resources, to design and develop a new product.

The good news? A project team with its built-in creativity and flexibility, may be able to identify a new process, a new supplier, or a new design that saves resources in the end.

4. Crowdsourcing, outsourcing, and partnerships

Old-style corporations attempted to contain all the skill sets, resources, and processes for their products in house, which created lumbering, unwieldy organizations with too many layers and high overhead costs.

Newer enterprises have learned from that lesson, and the best of the older ones—like Nike, IBM, and even NASA—have, too.

Innovation management comfortably pivots outside the enterprise to attract skills and other resources as needed to design and develop new products with lower costs. These days a manager and project team turn to crowdsourcing, outsourcing, or other types of partnerships (public-private, for instance) to devise the best solutions for customers.

5. Customer feedback

Finally, innovation management requires building relationships with customers to ensure that product ideas will have traction with consumers, and that product designs are user friendly. Seeking customer feedback at key junctions during the design and development process is the only way to avoid the need to retrofit or redesign later.

Innovation management means building a culture that is flexible, focused on customers, and comfortable with risk and change. The reward is a brand that becomes known over time for offering new and exciting products and services.

An Innovation that Increases Food Production by Hacking Photosynthesis

An Innovation that Increases Food Production by Hacking Photosynthesis

An Innovation that Increases Food Production by Hacking Photosynthesis

By hacking photosynthesis processes in plants, scientists are working to increase crop yields without using more resources.

With human populations continuing to grow and with the amount of arable land steadily running out, scientists are trying to figure out innovations on how to increase crop yields without consuming more resources. According to a recent article in Gizmodo, some researchers are thinking about how to hack a process called photosynthesis in order to grow more food.

As anyone knows who remembers their high school biology class, photosynthesis is a process that most plants use to convert the sun’s energy into chemical energy, i.e. sugars. The problem is that plants are very inefficient solar collectors, converting only a few percent of the photons they receive into biomass. However, in theory,   that amount can be boosted to 12 percent.

Thus far, scientists have only achieved some success in creating more light efficient algae used to create biofuel. However, there is no reason higher plants cannot also be engineered in the same way. Techniques being considered include creating more efficient light gathering pigments to finding ways for plants to absorb a wider spectrum of light than they currently are able to do.

Another substance that plants absorb to create biomass is carbon dioxide. Here too, the efficiency of plants to absorb CO2 can be boosted. A happy side effect would be that more of that greenhouse gas will be absorbed into plants and be used to create biomass and oxygen.

The third method that scientists are looking at to improve plant efficiency is a concept called “smart canopies.” Because of evolution’s survival of the fittest, some plants tend to block access to sunlight for others. Creating plants that share more sunlight with other plants would go a long way toward increasing their yields, without consuming more resources.

Skoll Global Threat Funds

Seeker Spotlight: Skoll Global Threats Fund

Skoll Global Threats FundToday we’re speaking with the Skoll Global Threats Fund, who have just launched their latest challenge on water/climatic events.

Thanks for joining us today. To start, could you tell us a bit about Skoll Global Threats Fund’s mission and key activities?

 The Skoll Global Threats Fund is a private foundation based in California and we are committed to safeguarding humanity against global threats. In particular, we focus on a number of global threats that this challenge touches on: water, climate, and pandemics. We believe that the dramatic advancement in data and technology in the past decade, as well as our ability to connect with different people from different sectors, has the potential to give us some exciting solutions to tackle these very big threats that we face.

Why is this an important public good problem?

 We live in an increasingly interconnected and complex world. While the rapid exchange of goods, information, and ideas has brought opportunities to many, the increased interconnectivity has also increased our vulnerability to systemic risks.  In the last 10 years, we have seen an increasing number of water and climate shocks, such as extreme local floods and droughts that have triggered global crises and led to disease outbreaks, social unrest, migration, political instability. For example, droughts in China and the Middle East and a heat wave in Russia all contributed to high food prices that contributed to the start of the Arab Spring. We need a better way to monitor and alert if, where, and when these types of events may happen in the future.

Briefly, what are you looking for with the challenge?

We are really looking for new ideas and new approaches that can identify early indications that a water or climatic event in one location, such as floods or droughts, can trigger direct and indirect impacts elsewhere in the world. It is exciting to sometimes hear that there is so much data in the world, but what we are looking for is how to harness that data to solve big global threats.

What could strong submissions lead to?

We believe that the strong submissions can be the beginning of creating a near-real time monitoring system to predict these types of globally networked risks. As sectors tend to be siloed, and data disparate, we hope that  the submissions can lead to creative ways of fusing and analyzing data across disciplines, for a more thoughtful and informative analysis.

Any final words of advice or guidance for people looking to enter the Challenge?

We are really excited to see what the solvers come up with! We are looking for new, unusual, and diverse ideas. We are really hoping to see that a new network of innovators on water and climate shocks emerges out of this competition.

Graphene filament lights are an innovation that could create photonic circuits

Graphene filament lights are an innovation that could create photonic circuits

Graphene filament lights are an innovation that could create photonic circuits

Innovators trying to create circuits that run on light rather than electricity may have hit on the perfect solution in graphene.

When Thomas Edison first created the commercially available light bulb, after copious trial and error, he used a carbon-based filament that glowed when electricity was passed through it. Researchers looking for ways to build circuits that run on light rather than electricity have hit upon a new form of carbon, graphene, to create the world’s smallest light bulb. Graphene is a form of carbon that is one atom in width. Tiny strips of graphene emit light when electricity is passed through them, just like the filaments first produced by Edison and the modern ones made of tungsten.

The properties of graphene and how they can be used are the subject of ongoing research. One property that makes it an ideal part of photonic circuits is that graphene does not conduct heat as efficiently as conventional incandescent bulbs. That means that a graphene transistor would work pretty well as part of new devices that run on light rather than electricity.

The implications for innovations in everything from computers to handheld devices are profound. The limiting factor for conventional circuits is that electricity can only run so fast through a wire. Light, by definition, moves at the speed of light. Light can also be tuned to various wavelengths, providing a wider array of signals than the on/off 0 or 1 system that conventional electronic circuits provide. Photonic circuits using lasers and LED lights are already in use in a number of applications. The circuits using graphene lights will be the same size as conventional electronic circuits, but more efficient.


The Thomson Reuters/CodeX 2015 Legal Tech Open Innovation Challenge – Docket Analytics

The Thomson Reuters/CodeX 2015 Legal Tech Open Innovation Challenge – Docket AnalyticsThe practice of law involves various forms of prediction and analysis, and historically legal professionals have relied on personal professional experience to attempt to accurately predict various outcomes. This professional experience may be augmented using the combination of detailed historical data and data analytics to increase the accuracy of predictions. Data analytics enhance attorneys’ ability to recognize business opportunities and to provide effective representation by arming them with better predictions about the future.

In this open innovation Challenge, Thomson Reuters and CodeX – The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics ( – have partnered to invite legal professionals, programmers, entrepreneurs, data scientists and any other interested parties to utilize years of federal court dockets along with outside data sources and Thomson Reuter’s PermID to develop an application that provides high value analytics to legal practitioners.

This Challenge has a special award structure with three awards of $20,000,$15,000, and $10,000 for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, respectively, for granting the Seeker a non-exclusive license to practice the solutions. In addition, up to four more Honorable Mention awards will be given. Each awardee will have the opportunity to attend the 2015 Thomson Reuters/CodeX Legal Tech Showcase event to be held at Stanford in November 2015 and be provided with a $2,000 stipend to attend the event.

Click here to view the challenge >>

Energy from Wi-fi Signals May Speed IoT Technology And Innovation

Energy from Wi-fi Signals May Speed IoT Technology & Innovation

Energy from Wi-fi Signals May Speed IoT Technology And Innovation

The Internet of Things may soon be powered by the excess energy in wi-fi hot spots.

Promising research suggests that the innumerable sensors and actuators deployed in the Internet of Things (IoT) may eventually be powered in part by energy drawn from wi-fi hot spots. This development could ultimately contribute to IoT technology & innovation. Recently, BBC News reported on the breakthrough work of researchers in the state of Washington.

Wi-fi Power Stored, Then Used 

As a part of the experimentation, researchers altered an ordinary battery-free surveillance camera so that it can capture power from wi-fi signals. A capacitor for storing the power made it possible for the intermittent release of energy necessary to take photographs. Specifically, they assert that the system captures enough power in 35 minutes to allow a surveillance camera to capture a single image. The team also captured enough power from wi-fi radio signals to operate a temperature sensor.

Wi-fi Signals Generate Adequate Power

The concept, simply dubbed “power-over-wi-fi,” is now advanced by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle. A lead researcher at the school’s Sensor Systems Lab is a PhD student, Varnsi Talla. He and his team first discovered that power levels in ambient wi-fi signals were reasonably close to the operating voltages of certain IoT devices that require very low energy levels to operate.

Need for a Consistent Power Source

Ordinarily, the nature of wi-fi signals works against the idea, because intermittent short signal bursts are a less than ideal source of power. However, when low-level noise is broadcast over such networks among signals, there’s a consistent source of low-level power. To accomplish this, they altered routers to broadcast low-level signals even when data was not being transmitted. They assert that this technique did not appear to slow data transmission.

At InnoCentive, we actively monitor a wide range of exciting technological developments and innovations. To learn more about how our crowdsourcing ideas might enhance your success, please contact us.

The MasterCard Foundation

Seeker Spotlight: The MasterCard Foundation

The MasterCard FoundationThe MasterCard Foundation Clients at the Centre Prize is offering US$150,000 to a client-focused financial service provider that best responds to the financial services needs and aspirations of poor people living in developing countries. We caught up with Sumaiya Sajjad, Program Manager, Financial Inclusion, to find out some more about The MasterCard Foundation and what exactly it wants to achieve with this Prize.


  1. Could you provide us with some background information about The MasterCard Foundation and in particular its focus on financial inclusion?

Founded in 2006, The MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training, and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa. As one of the largest private foundations, our work is guided by a mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Since the inception of the Foundation, we have committed more than $450 million toward financial inclusion projects, about a third of total Foundation commitments over that time.

  1. What excites you most in the financial inclusion space at the moment, and what are the biggest obstacles the industry is facing?

There are a lot of exciting opportunities in the financial inclusion space, but in the context of this prize, I would like to mention the following.  The space today is open to a range of players and an even wider range of partnership possibilities.  For example, the incredible spread of mobile phones is leading to solutions that are not necessarily spearheaded by traditional players, but instead by technology companies together with financial service providers.  This implies opportunities not just to enhance current products and channels but also to seek alternative pathways to inclusion.

Having said that, one obstacle I see is that while a range of innovative solutions are being implemented in different parts of the world, we may not be fully aware of them.  This results in their inability to scale or receive the necessary attention, and our inability to learn from them. We hope that by hosting this Prize, as well as The MasterCard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion, we will be able to highlight some of these innovations, offer them a platform to exchange and debate ideas with like-minded practitioners, and enable them grow further.

  1. Why did you choose crowdsourcing as a means to tackle financial inclusion issues?

While we are aware of many client-centric practices in financial services firms in different parts of the world, we are by no means aware of all of them. When we decided to recognize and reward the firm that best puts “clients at the centre”, we wanted to cast our nets wide. We want to be sure that we recognize the firm that has truly put this philosophy at the core of its decision-making, no matter what size it may be. If it is doing something truly innovative that is advancing financial inclusion for the benefit of poor people in developing countries, we want to hear about it.

  1. Why is the theme ‘clients at the centre’?

Because we believe that, in order to truly change the way financial services organizations think about and interact with poor people, the organizations need to put those clients (current, and future) at the heart and centre of their thinking and decision-making. This goes beyond asking clients what they would like as a product or service; it means adopting a permanent way of doing business where every employee asks her or himself each day: “what more can we do to enable our poorest clients to reach their goals and fulfil their ambitions?”

  1. What exactly is The MasterCard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion and why did you decide to invite finalists to present at the 2015 Symposium?

The Symposium is an annual event where about 300 world leaders in financial inclusion come together to learn about latest trends, share experiences, and consider how to drive greater client-centricity among financial services organizations. Attendees come representing financial services providers, mobile network operators, government officials, non-governmental organizations working in this space, and academia. We believe that finalists in this Prize competition would benefit enormously from networking and meeting those kinds of people for a cross-fertilization of good ideas. We also believe it is important to “let the people choose”, hence the idea to “crowd-source” the selection of the first winner of The MasterCard Foundation Clients at the Centre Prize.

  1. Any final words of advice for an organization wanting to enter the Prize?

We’re looking for the organization that is the most client-centric in the world in terms of providing financial products and services that poor people in developing countries find attractive, appropriate, and sustainable. We’re not looking for ideas per se but rather practices where we can see what true client-centricity looks like and how it is being applied for the benefit of the economically disadvantaged.

An Innovation Could Use a Protein to Use the Body's Immune System to Kill Cancer

An Innovation Could Use a Protein to Use the Body’s Immune System to Kill Cancer

An Innovation Could Use a Protein to Use the Body's Immune System to Kill Cancer

A new medical innovation could train the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells.

Finding a way to recruit the body’s immune system to fight cancer has been the innovation that many researchers are working on. The idea is that, instead of chemotherapy, which can have nasty side effects and sometimes is ineffective, the body of a cancer patient would be trained in some manner to regard cancer tumors as foreign invaders, like a virus, so that they can be dealt with naturally.

A recent article in the UK Telegraph related a story of promising research taking place at Imperial College, London, that concerns a newly discovered protein that enhances the body’s ability to fight off chronic disease. The protein, called lymphocyte expansion molecule, does try to fight cancer by flooding the body with T cells. Unfortunately, the protein soon runs out of steam, and the cancer soon fights off the attack.

The idea is to genetically enhance the protein so that it creates many more times the T cells it ordinarily does. The T cells would then be enhanced with the protein and would then overwhelm the cancer, destroying it entirely. The process would also create immune memory cells that would prevent the cancer from returning, in effect acting as a cancer vaccine.

The researchers are proceeding to perform animal studies to test and refine the new technique. Human trials may begin in as few as three years. If the technique can be made to work in humans, the day could arrive when standard cancer therapies, based on chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, become a thing of the past.

Jeff Bezos is facing an innovation challenge by going into the space tourism business

Jeff Bezos is facing an innovation challenge by going into the space tourism business

Jeff Bezos is facing an innovation challenge by going into the space tourism business

Jeff Bezos is getting into the space tourism business, which is closer than ever to being a reality.

Anyone who knows Jeff Bezos is most famous for having founded, the big online department store that has changed the face of retailing. However, one of his other enterprises is called Blue Origin, a commercial space company. For the past several years, Blue Origin has been testing prototypes of a spacecraft that will eventually take paying customers and payloads on suborbital jaunts from a test facility near Van Horn, Texas.

According to a recent story in Reuters, Blue Origin announced that a crucial part of that spacecraft, the rocket engine, has been completed. The engine, called the BA-3, will be attached to the prototype spacecraft, called New Shepard, which will begin test flights, according to company officials, “Soon.” The plan is to test the vehicle unpiloted dozens of times before it flies with a crew. It will fly to an altitude of 100 kilometers, judged by most to be the edge of space, before landing.

Blue Origin thus joins Virgin Galactic and XCOR in proposing to sell tickets for suborbital jaunts. The New Shepard will be capable of taking three people or a combination of crew and passengers. Unlike the Virgin Galactic and XCOR spacecraft, which will take off and land like airplanes, New Shepard will take off and land vertically.

Eventually, Blue Origin proposes to compete with bigger commercial space firms, such as SpaceX, with an orbital version of New Shepard. For that purpose, it is developing a larger rocket engine, the BA-4, in partnership with United Launch Alliance. An orbital version of New Shepard had been in the running for NASA’s commercial crew program, but was eventually passed over. Blue Origin has vowed to continue developing the spacecraft on its own dime, facing the ultimate innovation challenge of helping to create a brand new industry.

RoCKIn2015: the pinnacle of one of the premier European robotics projects

RoCKIn2015: the pinnacle of one of the premier European robotics projects


RoCKIn2015: the pinnacle of one of the premier European robotics projects

Figure 1: RoCKIn2014 @Home arena and audience

RoCKIn2015, the second and major competition event in the EU-funded robotics project RoCKIn, will be coming to Lisbon from 21-23 November. The event is open free-of-charge to the public who will get to see state-of-the-art robots autonomously perform challenging tasks in realistic domestic and industrial environments. It will be held at Lisbon’s premier science museum – The Pavilion of Knowledge– which is situated within Parque das Nacoes, one of Lisbon’s most prestigious leisure areas, boasting an array of restaurants, bars, museums and expansive green spaces all within a 5km stretch along the River Tagus.

This final competition aims to go above and beyond the highly successful RoCKIn2014 at Cité de l’espace in Toulouse, which saw teams go head-to-head in the RoCKIn@Work and RoCKIn@Home Challenges, all in front a live audience and strong local media presence.  In RoCKIn@Home, robots helped Granny Annie go about her daily routine by performing tasks such as recognising and responding appropriately to visitors, opening the windows and switching off the lights. In RoCKIn@Work, robots were programmed by their teams to perform various tasks in the construction of a drive axel, including assembling components, performing quality control and interacting with networked devices (e.g. the drilling machine).

Anna Bajart, Project Officer from the European Commission said RoCKIn is a “unique opportunity for young European researchers to meet and to share experience, and for the public who will attend the event to witness how science can contribute to well-being and progress in our daily lives”.

Preparatory camps were held in Eindhoven, Rome and most recently in Peccioli; however the competition is open to new contestants. If you think you have the skills to participate then head over to the RoCKIn website and find out how you can apply!

RoCKIn is committed to ensuring the continued success of Europe’s domestic and industrial robotics industry through benchmarking and competitions. In the near future, robotics technology is likely to be a dominant part of our lives and has the potential to become our most useful asset in supporting the elderly or disabled and helping industry work more efficiently and safely. In the last 20 years, robot competitions have emerged as a powerful means to foster progress in robotics Research and Development (R&D). By combining the scientific rigor and repeatability of experiments with the real-world relevance and spectacle of competitive events, they are able to offer a highly complementary approach to traditional lab-based R&D. Make sure you save the date and join RoCKIn for the final showdown in November to see what the future could have in store for all of us.

Key dates

Deadline for Intention to Participate………………..31 May 2015

Deadline for Applications………………………………….31 August 2015

Decision on Qualified Teams…………………………….08 September 2015

Registration open (qualified teams only)…………..09 – 30 September 2015