InnoCentive Challenge Statistics Module

Product Perspectives: Challenge Activity Statistics Coming to a Challenge Near You

InnoCentive Challenge Statistics ModuleBefore participating in a Challenge, do you consider how many other people have joined, and try to gauge your chances of winning? Have you ever wondered whether it would be worth your time to sign up for a Challenge and prepare a solution? Are you curious where the other Solvers participating in the Challenge are located?

Solvers, meet the Challenge Statistics module. It provides you with more feedback about participation levels in a Challenge and trends around submissions.

“More feedback” – that is one of the most common requests we have heard from Solvers. You have told us that you crave it. You want more feedback about, and insight into, the Challenges. You may want more information about a specific Challenge. You want feedback so you can make better decisions about where to spend your time. Your most frequent request (by far) is that you want feedback so you can learn and grow.

We want to give Solvers feedback. We want to do it in a way that provides you with valuable information and gives you a reason to stay engaged – either to revisit a particular Challenge, or to submit a solution to a different Challenge. And, we need to do it in a way that scales.

We are now beginning a controlled roll-out of the Challenge Statistics module. This compact widget (see snapshot) will appear alongside selected Challenges, and show three pieces of data about that Challenge:

  • The volume of Solvers joining
  • The trend of Solutions submitted
  • The general location (country) of participants

This is just a first step. We plan on providing more feedback in different areas of the site, in ways that will satisfy your desire for it while doing it in a way that scales. We will be monitoring the participation in Challenges which have the module enabled to determine if it is encouraging or discouraging Solver participation, and to see how these Challenges compare to the average of similar Challenges. And you will see adjustments based on what we hear from you and what we learn.

The Challenge Statistics module contains sparklines representing the number of open project rooms and the number of solutions submitted to a Challenge for each day the Challenge has been open. The module also contains a map with markers in each country representing the volume of Solvers from that country who have opened a project room. In this initial release, there are no numbers on the sparklines nor on the map. Research from Harvard Business School suggests that as the number of participants and submitted solutions increases, the number of new participants in that Challenge will plateau. In other words, if you are considering joining but think that there is too much competition, there will be a tendency to shy away from participation because the chances of winning are slim. For this reason, the sparklines represent the trend of participation, but not an absolute number.

We will be monitoring participation closely, and are very interested in your feedback.

Ben Skowera, winner of The Economist-InnoCentive Transparency Challenge

I’m a Solver: Ben Skowera

Ben Skowera is the winner of The Economist-InnoCentive Transparency Challenge.

I am an Associate at SEI Investments in Oaks, Pennsylvania, where I’m currently working on the online software development team performing quality assurance and business analysis for our products. My past projects at SEI have also included web product strategy, international new service development, project management, and operational process improvement. I graduated from Lehigh University in 2009 with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and a minor in Economics.

I first learned of InnoCentive through a news article about technology and innovation and I decided to sign up. Shortly after, I came across The Economist-InnoCentive Transparency Challenge in one of the site’s weekly Challenge Bulletins. The Challenge tasked Solvers with developing an innovative way to utilize technology to drive transparency in the government. With the upcoming presidential elections and the political turmoil occurring throughout much of the Middle East and North Africa, I thought this topic was both extremely relevant and important.

I believe having a basic knowledge of the government, political processes, and current political events is a very important part of anyone’s involvement in government and politics. After performing research into how people obtain information about their governments, I came to the conclusion that there wasn’t a sufficient way to truly understand the impact that political decisions have on us and our values and how well our elected officials are representing us over time. This is why I proposed my solution of creating a website that delivers personal and easy-to-understand, value-based political analysis by utilizing technologies and techniques used in online dating, social networking, and metric-based dashboard design.

As part of the award, I traveled to the Ideas Economy: Innovation 2012 event in Berkeley, California, where I was interviewed on stage by Matthew Bishop, US Business Editor and New York Bureau Chief of The Economist. The experience was incredible and so was the opportunity to meet and speak with some of the amazing people that attended the event. [editor note: to see Ben’s interview at the event, click on the link above]

By connecting organizations with problems to Solvers that reside outside of specific localities or the four walls of typical organization, I believe InnoCentive is creating a great opportunity for both people and organizations to take advantage of the tremendous knowledge the world has to offer. As more and more people connect due to the expansion of technology and the internet, I believe InnoCentive has developed a great way to bring together everyone’s ideas and create a global community to solve the world’s biggest problems.

I wish the best of luck to all future InnoCentive Solvers.


I’m a Solver: Mike Cirella

Mike Cirella recently won the Cleveland Clinic Challenge: Implantable Micro-sensor for Displacement & Mechanical Load. Previously, he received awards for three Challenges: Thresholds for Perception of Color Differences, Manufacturing of a Porous Film, and Task Light Charging.


Open innovation (OI) is a powerful platform that fosters creative thinking about problems that may be far outside a Solver’s daily routine. It provides an opportunity to apply diverse experiences that often lead to solutions never before considered. So often the ‘dumb’ questions are not asked by individuals studying problems from the perspective of someone inside an organization. The power of OI is much like a brainstorming session, where no question or suggested solution is off limits, thereby opening up the possibilities for a truly creative, even unique, solution.

It is precisely for these reasons that I am an active Solver. I have submitted many more proposed solutions than I have won, but each effort leads me down a new path and expands my knowledge for the next Challenge. The process allows me to ask “why not” instead of “why,” or worse, not ask at all since it is so far outside the normal approach.

For me, the common thread that links my winning solutions is the “Eureka moment” I experience after reading the Challenge description the first time and relate it to a past experience and solution to a problem in an entirely different field. Of course, many hours of research, organizing and fine-tuning my submission follows that moment, but the creative idea is formed by thinking laterally; searching my experience database for a tool or method that can be applied to a problem in a completely different area.

The Task Light Charging (aka Bogolight) Challenge sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation triggered my memory of how modern coin acceptors in vending machines function reliably in harsh environments by eliminating moving parts that wear and corrode. Since the task light required a rugged, off-grid method for re-charging its batteries that supplemented the existing photocell method, I applied wind and water power, converted to electricity via permanent magnets spinning past induction coils embedded in a plastic housing. No metal parts exposed and high inherent reliability.

The Manufacturing of a Porous Film Challenge had an obvious solution (to me) by applying methods used in the paper and plastics web production industries. Again, a past life experience at a company that manufactured polarizers for sunglasses prompted me to apply my knowledge of web rollers and controls and create a simple, inexpensive solution. Read the rest of this entry »


Introducing Brainstorm Challenges (Beta)

BrainstormWe’re excited to announce the beta release of a new type of InnoCentive Challenge: the Brainstorm. A Brainstorm Challenge is an open version of the Ideation Challenge – it’s an accessible way to quickly tap the global Solver community and get creative, thoughtful ideas about a question or problem you have. For Solvers, it’s an opportunity to participate in an open discussion and collaboratively work toward unique solutions and suggestions. Here are Brainstorms in a nutshell:

  • Any registered Solver can participate in a Brainstorm Challenge, and like every InnoCentive Challenge, it costs nothing to participate
  • All submissions are made in the Challenge’s discussion forum; every post is a submission
  • Solvers retain IP rights to their submissions, while granting a non-exclusive license to the Seeker and to other participating Solvers
  • Brainstorms are posted for a 30-day period
  • Any registered user can create a Brainstorm; all you need is a credit card
  • The cost to post a Brainstorm is $2,000 USD posting fee, plus an award of $500 – $2,000 USD

The Solver experience on will remain familiar with the introduction of Brainstorms. You’ll notice new Brainstorm Challenges appear alongside “Premium” Challenges (traditional Ideation, Theoretical, RTP and eRFP) in the Challenge Center. You’ll also notice a new area under “My IC” where you can create and manage Brainstorms. Read more


Tips for Aspiring Connectors


The InnoCentive Challenge referral program rewards potential Connectors like you for referring the winner of any Challenge. Use the referral tools to generate a unique referral link for any Challenge to send to your friends, family, or anyone else — if they win the Challenge, you receive a 10% referral award (up to $10,000)!

Since Ben Sikora’s blog post about his experience referring the winner of the Games for Health Challenge, subsequent Connectors have referred several more winners and shared Challenges with thousands of potential Solvers. We’ll be featuring more Connectors on the blog in the near future. For this post I’ve compiled some great advice and strategies used by successful Connectors. Follow these tips, and you can be in the running for a referral award on every Challenge — it’ll only be a matter of time until you refer a winner!

Focus on interests as well as capability

Capability is necessary but often not sufficient for solving a Challenge. Winning Connector Ben Sikora advises that “it isn’t about who you think is the smartest, most innovative, or even most creative (even though these help), it is about the interests of the people around you.” One clever Connector referred several solutions of the craft beer packaging Challenge by posting his referral link to Beer Advocate — an online community of craft beer lovers. For technical Challenges, a quick literature search will often uncover relevant papers with authors whose interests may be aligned with the Challenge.

Take advantage of viral Challenges

Read more


What InnoCentive’s Recent Addition to GSA Means for Our Solvers

GSA_hpThis week, InnoCentive announced that is has become a General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule contractor. Essentially what this means is that it is now easier for U.S. federal government agencies to engage with InnoCentive to develop and launch Challenges.

As many of our Solvers know, we’ve done some pretty interesting work with the government. In January 2010, NASA’s Johnson Space Center launched an open innovation pavilion on Of NASA’s initial seven Challenges – ranging from protecting astronauts and equipment in space from solar flares to keeping food fresh during long space missions – nearly 3,000 of our Solvers from around the world participated, and more than 350 solutions were proposed. NASA designated full or partial monetary awards for all seven Challenges, and the average time-to-solution for each of the Challenges was only four months.

I always liked this quote from Solver Yury Bodrov, who was rewarded for his submission to NASA’s Improved Food Packaging Challenge: “I was not sure I would be successful, but having NASA scientists evaluate my work was a primary motivation…It is a dream to be recognized by the scientific level of NASA quality.” 

More recently, in March 2011, InnoCentive and the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) announced a collaboration to advance innovation in military research. Through this partnership, the AFRL has successfully solved Challenges, including methods for dropping humanitarian aid without injury to people on the ground and stopping a fleeing vehicle without damaging the vehicle or the driver. The AFRL has since launched new Challenges, most recently Fast Rope Glove Device, currently open to the public and seeks innovative ways for military personnel to descend quickly from a helicopter in hostile situations.

Let’s face it: While we consider all of our Challenges to be important, there’s something cool about participating in NASA, AFRL, and other Challenges posted by government agencies. They spark our collective imaginations and enable us to truly reach for the stars. Stay tuned for other agencies to launch new Challenges on in the coming months.


I’m a Connector: Ben Sikora

bensikoraThe following post was written by Ben Sikora, a PhD student at Northwestern University and the first winning Connector from the InnoCentive Challenge Referral Program. Ben will receive a referral award for referring the Challenge “Games for Health: Inspiring Adolescents to take Control of their Health” to a relative who successfully solved it! If you want to become a Connector and earn awards for referring Challenges, simply visit any Challenge and look for the referral module to the right of the Challenge description.

In this day of age where communication between individuals has been reduced to writing on a wall, “chirping” about eating dinner, or telling the world how you feel, it’s hard to find other people you might think are suitable for solving hard problems. However, in my case, the lesson is simple: you don’t have to look that far. Those closest to you may surprise you the most. When referring people, it isn’t about who you think is the smartest, most innovative, or even most creative (even though these help), it is about the interests of the people around you.

I ended up referring my sister’s boyfriend (a game designer), my brother (a computer science major), as well as other family members (which includes a technical writer), and it ended up that this challenge really interested them. My last piece of advice is this: despite the money that could potentially be won from the Innocentive challenge, would the person you are referring enjoy working on that challenge just for fun? If not, then he or she probably is not a good person to refer to that challenge.


Exciting Updates for InnoCentive Solvers!

Today’s blog post was contributed by InnoCentive Marketing Manager Tim O’Brien.


If you’ve visited in the past week, you probably noticed that nearly every Challenge now has a referral award in addition to a Challenge award. This referral award is paid out to InnoCentive users who play a key role in the Challenge-solving process by exposing the Challenge to the person who is ultimately motivated and able to solve it.

At InnoCentive, we believe that diversity of experience can overcome the toughest Challenges. Time and time again, winning Solvers hail from backgrounds outside of the domain of the Challenges they solve. But for Seekers, lack of diversity is a serious limiting factor of innovation; after all, every organization is limited by the number of employees and contractors that it’s able to employ.

We address the diversity constraint by identifying problems that matter within Seeker organizations, formulating them as discrete Challenges, and then broadcasting those Challenges to the world. Yet, in a world of billions of internet-connected individuals, posting a Challenge on is not always sufficient for reaching the individual with the right set of experiences to develop a winning solution. Given that it’s unrealistic to expect every potential Solver to read every Challenge, we’ve recognized and responded to the need for a new role in the InnoCentive community: the Connector.

A Connector acts as an innovation catalyst, reading Challenges and then intelligently broadcasting them to potentially interested and capable audiences. By acting as a Connector, you play a vital role in the innovation process whenever you refer a Challenge to the person who ultimately solves it. Here’s how it works: Visit the Challenge Center or a Challenge summary or details page of almost any Challenge to generate and share a unique referral link to that Challenge; if you refer the winner to the Challenge with your referral link, you’ll receive a referral award in recognition of your crucial role in motivating the winning Solver to read that Challenge and submit a solution. In addition, if you introduce new Solvers to InnoCentive by referring them to Challenges before they’ve registered accounts on, you’ll earn an award for each one who wins any Challenge within a year.

One major benefit of the Challenge Referral Program is the enhanced relevance of every Challenge. Even if you’re sure you can’t solve a given Challenge on your own, it’s still worth reading the overview or details and thinking “who might be able to Solve this Challenge.” If you refer the Challenge to the right person, you’ll receive a referral award of up to $10,000 USD. Who knows, maybe just reading and considering the Challenge will prompt an unexpected ‘eureka.’ Either way, there’s never been a better time to get serious about following Challenges. To help you keep an eye on and share the latest Challenges as easily as possible, we’ve just released InnoCentive Anywhere, a free mobile app for iPhone and Android devices.

InnoCentive community members aren’t the only ones excited about this new program: “Life Technologies is very excited to be participating in InnoCentive’s referral program,” says Nigel Beard, Head of Scientific Operations of Life Technologies. “This program is designed to extend the reach of Challenges by tapping into the intellectual networks of the existing Solver community. Not only does this provide the potential to increase the number of active Solvers, but more importantly, it allows us to get these complex research Challenges in front of the best minds with the highest probability of solving them.” By referring Challenges such as “Life Grand Challenge: Twice the Accuracy of Genome Sequencing,” you could play a vital role in advancing the next generation of DNA sequencing technologies!

To get started, visit the Challenge overview page of any Challenge with a referral award (nearly all Challenges have one!). On the page, you’ll see a referral module which makes it easy to broadcast the Challenge to potential Solvers. For more information, visit Start Referring.

Please leave your comments and reactions below!


Solver Resources for Developing a Winning Solution

The following post was written by Tim O’Brien, InnoCentive’s Marketing Manager.

resourcesA successful solution contains more than great ideas — the presentation of those ideas is equally vital. Solvers frequently ask us “how should I format my solution?” This is a difficult question, as every Challenge is different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution template (we’ve awarded submissions that range from two paragraphs to over 100 pages). Instead of providing an overly restrictive template or form for submissions, we suggest keeping in mind a few simple guidelines. Below are three past blog posts from our client services teams that highlight some common themes and best practices for developing and presenting a winning solution.

Blog post: 10 Tips for Writing a Winning Solution

Not sure where to begin? Start with these 10 tips based on previous winning solutions. Remember if you have a Challenge-specific question, you can communicate with the Seeker using the “Messages” tab in the Challenge Project Room. Read more


We Heard You! New and Improved Novel Molecule Challenges


by Christian Stevenson, Ph.D.
Innovation Program Manager, InnoCentive

As an organic chemist and Innovation Program Manager at InnoCentive, one of my favorite things to do is to work with our dynamic Solver community to help them solve our Seekers’ pressing problems. I recently had an opportunity to do that in a very direct way when we carried out two surveys of our Solvers. InnoCentive was seeking ways to make Solvers happier with our Novel Molecule Challenges (NMCs, Challenges in which Seekers desire delivery of small amounts of novel molecules for testing in their assays). We did this even though InnoCentive was already giving Solvers an opportunity to find potential uses for the compounds they already had (something we know you’re interested in, but that’s often difficult to do) and get rewarded for it in the process – for a total of over $350,000 in awards to date for NMCs alone.

In response to the survey results, here are the concerns that you, our Solvers, voiced, and what we at InnoCentive are now doing as a result:

1. Clarify the Intellectual Property (IP) implications of participating in NMCs. Read more