BoGo Light SN2

Published Dec-03-09

Solar-powered lighting that can illuminate an entire room from a single flashlight.

Russell McMahon, New Zealand

The Story:

BoGo Light SN2 Mark Bent, CEO of SunNight Solar turned to open innovation to help create a better design for the solar-powered flashlight that he had created for the developing world.

Solar Solution

A former marine, diplomat, and oil industry consultant Bent formed his company in 2005 to bring cheap personal lighting to people without electricity. He was inspired by his work with villagers in Eritrea in Africa and his first product was a solar-powered flashlight. The BoGo (“Buy One” in the US and the company “Gives One” to Africa”) lights gave five hours of illumination for a 10 hour charge. People liked them, but they had their limits and so families were still using potentially dangerous kerosene lamps.

The problem was that unlike a kerosene lamp which hangs over a table, a BoGo light cannot fully light up a room. Bent had tried and failed to come up with his own solution and as he had already ploughed $250,000 into the development of the flashlight there really wasn’t all that much left in the coffers for research and development. He needed help and finding a solution via an open innovation challenge was just around the corner.

Turning to Open Innovation for Answers

Bent figured that one way of solving his engineering problem would be to hire a bunch of engineers, put them in a lab and get them to figure it out. However, he quickly ruled this out as too expensive an option. Then he came across InnoCentive and put up a challenge on its website for someone to come up with a better design for his BoGo light.

Flashes of Genius

Enter a New Zealand engineer named Russell McMahon who answered the open innovation call. His approach stood out way above the other 77 submissions. Not only did it meet all the technical specifications that had been set, but it far surpassed expectations as McMahon created a flashlight that would work for up to 20 years. It’s these out-of-the box flashes of genius that has convinced Bent that open innovation is the way forward. “It was the unknown quantities that I was excited about mostly, and that’s exactly what we got. It’s something way beyond what I hoped for.” He believes that open innovation provides companies with the most cost-effective way of having a private research and development team.

With the challenge solved SunNight Solar quickly went into production with the new design. The demand for the product was so great that a second factory had to be opened to manufacture even more units. As well as helping to light up Africa the solar-powered flashlights have also been delivered to families living without power in the Gaza Strip, and there are plans to send them to military personnel serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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