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Trend : The impact of crowdfunding / crowdsourcing on R&D

GE is running an article, A Fresh Perspective from Many Minds, that explores the impact of crowdfunding on the world of R&D. I’ve long been pointing out that such efforts are accelerating R&D in countless industries, and in many cases, are challenging incumbent ‘owners of the industry.’

Greenbox

Carroll says that interest in crowdsourcing is spreading, thanks to the inherent desire of small independent firms to make a big hit. “They can get a prototype out in about a month. Big companies can’t do that. If you’re a small startup competing for ideas you can do it and get it to market a lot faster.”

For example, I recently spent time with a company in the lawn irrigation business. It’s been a pretty simple industry: some sprinkler heads, pipes, control systems. But now, what is coming to the industry — hyper connectivity, individually accessible sprinkler heads that are linked to an ethernet network. Not just that, but sophisticated control panels from iPads that provide for individually controllable water application, and sensors that feed moisture and other soil data on a square meter by square meter basis.

A good part of this innovation is occurring out on KIckstarter; there are dozens of examples, but perhaps the best is the Greenbox project, which goes with the tagline, “Your Garden, Connected.”

What this is leading to is an acceleration of change and innovation in many industries, and startups challenging incumbents in new and different ways. It continues to lead us to the future in which the future belongs to those who are fast!

GE Survey: Canadian companies are turning to crowdsourcing to solve R&D challenges

” Essentially, crowdsourcing is distributed problem-solving. It is also called “open innovation” for its collaborative approach to finding new solutions to technical challenges. Canadian futurist, trendspotter and innovation expert Jim Carroll says: “It’s changing the classical approach to research and development. A lot of R&D is being done through crowdsourcing. I call it innovation occurring on the edges.”

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Carroll says that interest in crowdsourcing is spreading, thanks to the inherent desire of small independent firms to make a big hit. “They can get a prototype out in about a month. Big companies can’t do that. If you’re a small startup competing for ideas you can do it and get it to market a lot faster.”

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Then there’s the issue of compensation and ownership of crowdsourced innovations. Large corporations may pay little more than a few thousand dollars for a bright idea that may make them far more money. This risks alienating the crowdsourcing ecosphere. However, leveraging the resources and ability to scale of a large organization may be worth the risks for some. Carroll says that the phenomenon will “play out in different ways. People will come to realize the currency of their ideas.” Conversely, he says, a lot of promising ideas touted by crowdsource participants may not deliver on time or on spec. “It’s very hard work to get the bloody thing built and tested, and that’s a risk with crowdsourcing.”

The economics of crowdsourcing is only one aspect, however, and the compelling attraction of a thousand independent minds finding ways to solve your innovation challenge is undeniable. A fresh perspective is always welcome.

You can read the full article here.

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