Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bounty Hunting for the Sake of Innovation

In an earlier post, i4i discussed Procter and Gamble’s connect and develop policy (see: LINK), where outside scientists and experts join a network to help P&G solve science problems.

Eli Lilly has adopted a similar strategy to tap into experts outside the company by bringing specific problems to virtual arenas (Breen, 2002). Eli Lilly founded InnoCentive, a wholly owned subsidiary, to take on the task of bringing outside researchers’ attention and energy to the drug development process through an incentive system (Breen, 2002). The process is similar to bounty hunting in the Old West: “Wanted” posters are put up describing a scientific problem and a reward, then bounty hunters can compete in an online project room to answer first and best (Breen, 2002).

Confidentiality was the first hurdle InnoCentive tackled, but even scientists who have won large bounties argue that the process puts undue risk upon the scientist, particularly when research must be conducted to get to a particular target or answer (Breen, 2002). The reward is only given to one scientist, so if another does quite a bit of work but comes up with the answer a day too late, they receive nothing.

But many scientists are signing up for InnoCentive: in 2002, “7,000 scientists have registered at InnoCentive, and there are 2,400 project rooms in use, organized around 33 problems” (Breen, 2002). In 2006, more than 95,000 scientists have registered with InnoCentive (Kramer, 2006). Scientists from India, Russia and other places around the globe have signed up with InnoCentive (, and companies like Boeing, Proctor & Gamble, Dow Chemical and Nestlé all have paid the membership fee and seek solutions using InnoCentive (Kramer, 2006). Open innovation seems to be working for the organizations, the scientists and the broker.

Breen, B. (2002) “Lilly’s R&D Prescription.” Fast Company, Issue 57, April.

Kramer, H. (2006) “Brainy Website Takes Advances to Market.” New York Post, July 30. Available: LINK

[Summary by: Caroline]

1 comment:

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