Seeker Spotlight: Dow Chemical's Oil Sol Challenge

Posted by jartese on Dec 2, 2013 2:21:33 PM


Dow Lubricants is launching the global “Oil-Sol Challenge” in partnership with InnoCentive. The Challenge is part of Dow’s new marketing strategy that leverages digital marketing and open innovation to rapidly bring new technology to market. With a guaranteed payout of $15,000, daring “solvers” are invited to register and submit their ideas by January 27 through the contest’s web page.

The Challenge centers on an invention by Dow:  Oil-Soluble Polyalkylene Glycols (or “Oil-Soluble PAGs”).  It is a significant advancement in PAG technology, with infinitely more possibilities than conventional PAGs.  We recently spoke about the Challenge with Lisa Inoue in global strategic marketing at Dow Chemical.  View the challenge page.  

 Hello Ms. Inoue – thanks for joining us today. To start, could you tell us a bit about Dow’s breakthrough oil-soluble polyalkylene glycol technology?

Sure.  Dow invented this technology, but let me take a step back.  Conventional polyalkylene glycols, or “PAGs,” have been around for over 50 years. They were commercialized by Union Carbide (later acquired by Dow) and the US Navy for use on battleships.  Historically, they were used as synthetic fluids and lubricants where petroleum, animal and vegetable oil-based products just weren’t getting the job done.

This new chemistry is an oil-soluble variant.  Unlike traditional PAGs that are either water-soluble or water-insoluble, Dow’s “Oil-Soluble PAGs” can be mixed in hydrocarbon or mineral oils.  For the industrial and automotive sectors, this is huge.  Oil-Soluble PAGs are showing superior performance in industrial compressors and hydraulic systems, and increased energy efficiency in automotive applications.

What’s really exciting about this new chemistry is the applications are broad and varied.  So it has infinitely more possibilities, ranging from textiles to agriculture to household cleaning products.  Many of its performance properties are unheard of – which is why we need to get the word out to the global community.

 dow - lisaWhat are your key objectives for this challenge?

To get this exciting new chemistry into the hands of people who can use it to create better solutions in their fields of expertise, and to reward them for their work.  There is such a vast array of markets we want to explore.  We’re challenging participants to collaborate with Dow in identifying applications where Oil-Soluble PAGs can make a real difference, then tailor it for use.  We really want to push the envelope with this Challenge.  We’ve upped the ante to effectively duplicate the Challenge by investing in multiple ideas and awarding multiple 1st prizes.  So the possibilities are endless.

What was your primary motivation for crowdsourcing this Challenge to InnoCentive’s Solvers (as opposed to using more “traditional” means to solicit ideas and solutions)?

This Challenge format is open source innovation and collaboration at its finest.  Participation is virtual, so it beckons ideas from across disciplines and geographies.  InnoCentive provides the framework and is practiced in the art.  Each solver has a virtual workspace.  They can submit a single idea based on a key market insight, or team up online to build a collective solution.  Development is dynamic and real-time.

What are some of the key trends you’re observing in the area of oil-soluble PAG’s?

That’s a great question.  In our existing markets, we’re seeing rapid uptake around the globe because of the possibilities created by virtue of the product being oil-soluble, and because of more stringent regulations to create environmentally friendly products.  The chief value propositions are increased energy efficiency, less maintenance and down-time, longer equipment life, improved hydrolytic stability, and being environmentally benign with biodegradable properties.

However, what we’re doing with the Challenge is looking beyond existing markets.  Consequently, I can’t yet speak to trends.  From the material science perspective, Dow recognizes the enormous potential of Oil-Soluble PAGs.  There is a much broader market.  We don’t want to miss out on the next big idea, and that is why we are openly collaborating and drawing on a large and diverse pool to surface new ideas.

What are some of the key attributes you’d like to see in a winning solution?

Ideas should be bold.  We encourage out-of-the-box thinking – both in terms of applications and approaches to engaging customers and the value chain.  We want solutions that offer measurable advantages over existing offerings.  Submissions that have an environmental or “green” advantage are always appealing.  We’re also looking for accretive solutions from collaboration and partnerships.

Lastly, it’s important that entries address as many of the stated deliverables as possible, including compelling value propositions, speed to market, policy, certifications and other go-to-market considerations.

 Thanks for your time Ms. Inoue. Any final advice to Solvers as they tackle this exciting Challenge?

Dow has an eclectic networking culture.  We often say, the more we talk together, the more we solve together.  Anyone can be a solver.  In Dow we’ve coined a term for it (“Solutionism”) and Solutionism doesn’t discriminate.  We do believe the possibilities with this chemistry are endless.  If you have an idea, talk about it.  Test its merit.  If it stands up, take the Challenge – who knows where it will take you!

Topics: Innovation Insights, Seekers

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