An Acid Synthesis Method

Published Dec-10-09

A new way of synthesizing butane tetracarboxylic acid.

David Bradin, United States

The Story:

An Acid Synthesis Method One of the benefits of open innovation is that someone somewhere may already have the answer to a problem that’s been vexing you for ages. That’s certainly what Procter and Gamble found when they were looking for a more efficient way to mass-produce a specific acid - butane tetracarboxylic acid. They launched an open innovation challenge and offered a cash reward to the person who could solve it.

Simple Solution

A number of potential solvers examined the challenge including patent attorney David Bradin. He had a hunch he could solve it as it reminded him of a process he used when making batches of chemicals in his former career with a chemical company. So it didn’t take him too long to scribble down a solution and send it in.

Procter and Gamble via the InnoCentive website sent him an email a few weeks later as they were intrigued by his answer, but wanted a few more details about catalysts and conditions that might work. So he followed up with a more comprehensive response which turned out to be the best solution amongst all those that had been posted. He was awarded a $4,000 prize - a shrewd investment by Procter and Gamble as the process is of great value to them and it was far cheaper to find the answer through open innovation than by the conventional internal R&D route.

Bradin was pretty happy too with his first brush with open innoation. "It was the easiest $4,000 I ever made."


At the time he submitted his solution Bradin had no idea who he was working for, as some companies prefer anonymity. They don’t want to give away details of any proprietary material or technologies until they’ve been marketed. Bradin only found out when an article appeared in the Boston Globe that announced a project that Procter and Gamble had been seeking help with. It described three solvers including a patent attorney from Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

Open Innovation Helps

Bradin believes that the more people who have the opportunity to participate in the innovation process, the better for solution seekers.

What his experience ably demonstrates to those who are looking outside of their company headquarters for answers is that there can be a person sitting at home browsing the web who may just have the solution to a thorny problem, and be able to give it in an instant. Such was the case with Bradin, although other problems can and do take a lot more time and effort to solve.

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