The InnoCentive Insider: The Lifecycle of a Challenge – Behind the Scenes

Posted by Connie French on Jan 9, 2009 8:05:22 AM




Hello.  My name is Elly Madrigal, and I am the Client Operations Manager at InnoCentive.  What does that mean?  Every day, I receive new orders for Challenges, review them, assign them to one of our Team members, establish metrics and statistics on our various delivery and success rates, and review these results with our Management and Clients (otherwise known as Seekers).

Since Solvers on our site have limited ability to view the "Big Picture" of the Challenge Lifecycle, I thought I'd paint that picture for you from my point of view.  The Challenge is not magically created and emailed to us from these big pocketed Companies (although I wish they were!)  They do require a significant amount of development time between InnoCentive Team members and the Seeker Challenge Owners (usually Scientists or Technical Managers).  In addition, there is a significant amount of time spent by the InnoCentive Team and the Challenge Owners reviewing your Submissions.  Solvers do not see this happening in the background, so I thought I'd tell you what we do when we're not answering your questions or sending updates on your Submission.

We've arranged this process into 3 phases each with specific milestones and deliverables that mark the beginning and end of each phase.  Let me apologize in advance for the Project Management lingo, but I can't help it.  So let's dive in.....


Phase 1 - Developing the Challenge.

A typical Challenge usually starts off with a one or two sentence idea from one of our Seeker Companies.   Yes, this eventually gets converted into one of the posted Challenges, but not instantly.  Over a period of about 2 weeks to a month, an InnoCentive Team member will review the details of the overall project with the Seeker to understand the problem at hand and its intricacies.  The InnoCentive team member will also conduct outside research on the topic to fully understand the area and compliment the information that the Seeker has provided.  (Wouldn't you do all the research you could, if you had to answer questions from 165,000+ Solvers?)  Once the InnoCentive Team member is ready, s/he will create a draft with of the Challenge and wordsmith that with the Seeker until both parties are happy with the contents.  The focus here is to ensure that the Seeker's confidential information is not revealed, while conveying critical information that Solvers need to Solve the problem.  Not easy.

Phase 2 - The Posted Challenge.

Once the Seeker approves the contents of the Challenge, InnoCentive posts the Challenge on the website.  This is where Solvers see it.  You probably already know that you can submit questions through the Project Room for the Challenge, but what may be of more importance is that you should not be afraid to ask very detailed questions because our staff has fully studied the Challenge and its background.  If they don't know the answer to your question, they will ask the Seeker Company for the answer.  When we do forward your question, please be patient, as it does take some time to get your question answered .  But keep asking, because we both want to get good submissions to the Seeker.

Phase 3 - Evaluating the Submissions and Awarding the Winners.

After the Challenge deadline has passed, InnoCentive compiles the Submissions and send them to the Seeker.  This can take several weeks, depending on how many are received.  Then, depending on the Challenge type, the Seeker has from 15 to 60 days to review the Submissions.  That is why many of the Challenges on our site are past deadline, but no winners have been posted.  The Seekers are reviewing the Submissions, and in some cases (RTP) they are validating the Submissions in their labs or through computer modeling.  This takes time, but they are working to determine which Submission works best and fits their application properly.  Once the winning Solvers are identified by the Seeker, we contact you.  Usually you will receive a message in your Project Room and through the email address that you've supplied on our Contact Information form when you signed up (make sure it's accurate!)   That's the informal part......

Closing the Challenge -

Now for the formal part..... If you've been chosen as the winner, the Challenge gets passed to the InnoCentive Operations Team who will also contact you on getting a variety of information.  This includes:  "wet" signatures on the following:  (1) a Notarized Affidavit which reaffirms the Solver Agreement, (2) a signed Employer Waiver if any IP is transferred, (3)  a W-9 form (or W-9BEN for international Solvers), (4) a Photo ID, and most importantly (5) Banking Information, so we can wire the funds to you.  At this point, the Solvers whose submissions were not selected receive a formal rejection letter in the Project Room, which reverts the Intellectual Property back to the submitting Solver.  The Closing process takes some time, in the 30-45 day range.  However, we try our best to inform you of the status of your submission, and whether it was awarded or returned back to you.

So there it is.  The whole Challenge Process in one snapshot.  I hope this helps you understand what is performed behind the scenes, and why some of the phases take some time.  But please know that things are progressing with the Challenge at all times.  You may not see it, but my full time job is to reduce the time for this process, so that both Seekers and Solvers are completely satisfied.  Isn't that what Project Managers do - push, push, push to meet milestones and objectives?  And good Project Managers are even able to keep the staff happy.  I'm still working on that one!   :)

Best Regards,

Elly Madrigal

Topics: Challenges

Follow InnoCentive

Search Blog

Join 5,000+ Subscribers

Recent Posts