Don’t Let Creativity Hit the Buffers: Turn to Open Innovation

Published Mar-03-11

Crowdsourcing and open innovation experiment to see what the future of rail travel will look like.

Bombardier Transportation, Germany

The Story:

Don’t Let Creativity Hit the Buffers: Turn to Open Innovation Global transportation company Bombardier was looking for ways to whisk itself into the future by imagining what the interiors of trains would look like further along the track. So it organized an open innovation contest - 'You Rail: Visions of Modern Transportation' - calling on designers all over the world to send them their visions of ultra modern transportation.

Bombardier wanted participating designers to focus their creativity on three types of travelers:

The business traveler – the businessperson on their way to and from work who may need a continuation of the work environment

The leisure traveler – families and individuals on their way to leisure activities who see the journey as an experience

The everyday passenger – designs should aim to attract passengers to use public transport by offering them comfort away from home

Submissions were judged by a jury that consisted of Bombardier Transportation senior management as well as external rail industry experts and a total prize purse of approximately $13,000 was up for grabs.

Help from Open Innovation Broker

To ensure the smooth running of the contest Bombardier teamed up with an open innovation broker, Hyve AG from Munich. It has a track record of hosting crowdsourcing projects and supplied the IT platform that the contest ran on.

A total of 4300 submissions in various categories were made and the first prize went to Svyatoslav Saakyan, from Russia, who designed an interior for medium and long distance routes. It included a flexible room design with mobile chairs and tables. There were also plenty of quiet zones and free areas, and commuters would be bathed in ample daylight through the large windows. As well as winning the award he picked up a check for approximately $2600.

The prize for second place was awarded to Stefano Ivan Scarascia from Italy. His space-saving concept envisioned passengers being able to stand on underground trains without having to hold on to the stanchions.

Competition Aims

The competition aim was not to find the definitive interior that would be incorporated into the next carriages to roll off the production line, more it was an exercise to stimulate discussion on the interior designs of trains and to see how Bombardier could differentiate itself from the competition.

“We’re delighted with the very high number of creative ideas that came from those taking part in the competition, the majority with a high level of design quality,” said Andre Navarri, President and COO of Bombardier Transportation.

Future Rail Innovations

The design contest was also an experiment to see what crowdsourcing and open innovation were capable of delivering. Bombardier is the first rail company to involve Internet users in the future designs of trains.

When the idea for the open innovation contest was first mooted round Bombardier offices, there was some initial skepticism as various quarters were concerned that their competitors would have full access to what was going on.

But the biggest challenges are not here. They are in trying to incorporate some of the ideas as company resources are being diverted elsewhere. However, at least two of the concepts were being actively researched after the contest closed.

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