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Space Age Technology to Help Insomniacs Get Some Sleep


Breakthrough:
A Danish bedding company looks in non-traditional places to help it develop new products.

Company:
Quilts of Denmark, Denmark

The Story:
Space Age Technology to Help Insomniacs Get Some SleepQuilts of Denmark is a small international company, founded in 2000 that operates in more than 30 countries and produces high-quality, functional bedding.

The company has engaged in open innovation from the start, to help it to come up with new concepts at low cost that bring far reaching benefits to consumers and to itself.

The company’s quilts are based on deep research and extensive knowledge provided by sleep researchers. Typically they focus their studies on comfort and this feeds back into the concept and design stages.

Dreaming of New Ideas

In its search for new ideas Quilts of Denmark wanted to produce functional down quilts that would actively help people with insomnia to get a good night’s sleep. The company knew that whilst comfort is an important issue, it isn’t the only one. According to sleep researchers temperature regulation during the middle of the night is the key factor.

Company employees got down to work to develop a technology that could regulate the temperature in quilts. However, everything they tried failed. So unable to come up with the solution themselves they looked outside the company headquarters for expertise.

Finding the Dream Team

Someone had read in a number of scientific magazines that the space agency NASA had solved the problem of temperature regulation with a pioneering technology called TempraKON® that was developed for spacesuits.

After a couple of weeks of trying Quilts of Denmark managed to touch base with NASA to see if they would be willing to share their knowledge. However, the technology invented by the space agency could not be directly applied to the Danish company’s bedding products as it was too stiff and the requirement was for something softer.

But during a lengthy development process with a company that had bought the rights to use TempraKON® on home insulation material, the technology was refined and modified for use in quilts. The result was temperature-regulating pillows and quilts that have revolutionised the market.

A Good Night’s Sleep

When most people wake up during the night it is either because they are too hot or too cold. The TempraKON® quilt is filled with a soft down, that in the company’s own words, “breathes moisture and sweat away,” and therefore absorbs and releases heat while people are sleeping.

The material consists of microscopic spheres filled with wax that are able to absorb heat as temperatures rise, store it and then release it when the temperature falls.

Open Innovation Benefits

Finding answers from external sources through open innovation has proved to be extremely advantageous for Quilts of Denmark on a number of counts:

  • Open innovation has greatly reduced the company’s development costs as it is able to share these with external partners

  • Working with open innovation has drastically reduced development time as employees are able to work on more projects at the same time

  • Open innovation has helped the company to introduce new product ideas to the market place

  • Open innovation has given a small company like Quilts of Denmark a much bigger global presence, enabling it to enjoy many of the advantages of a big company

  • Open innovation has engaged company employees to work with external sources to create more innovative products. Quilts of Denmark claims that it has not come across the ‘Not-Invented-Here Syndrome.’

For its forward thinking approach Quilts of Denmark was hailed as the country’s most innovative company in 2007 and awarded The Innovation Cup in the small company category (fewer than 100 employees).

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