Going for Gold with Open Innovation

Published Sep-11-12

An open innovation contest helps a global company to engage a community of innovators to discuss ideas and applications for one of its novel materials.

DSM, Netherlands

The Story:

Going for Gold with Open Innovation Multinational life sciences and materials sciences-based company DSM launched an open innovation contest in 2011 that invited creative thinkers and innovators to design a sporting innovation using the company’s Arnitel eco material.

Next Generation Material

Arnitel is a bio-based thermoplastic copolyester with high flexibility and strength and is able to withstand extreme conditions such as heat and UV rays. The elastic material has applications in sports, the automotive industry, consumer electronics, furniture and alternative energy. Partly made from renewable resources it is highly sustainable and was the recipient of the Frost & Sullivan Green Excellence in Production Innovation Award.

On Your Marks…

Anyone could take part in the open innovation competition and there were no limits as to what could be created; it could be an innovation for any sport.

At the time of the launch of the competition Francis Aussems, Business Development Manager Arnitel Eco at DSM, said, “From skiing to sailing to bobsleighing and golf balls, to next-generation athletic clothing, we’re active in innovations to optimize sporting performance. And open innovation is the way to innovate, we need you to join forces and together we can make new world records happen.”

Going for Gold

Five ideas were shortlisted for the finals. Four were selected by the contest’s judges and the fifth finalist was chosen by the public via a Facebook vote.

The five top ideas were:

• Golf gloves that provide the same grip under both wet and dry conditions

• Resistant patches that are applied to parts of the body to train specific
muscles and joints and improve an athlete’s performance

• New generation shin pads for use in soccer that are lightweight and offer
three layers of protection

• A socket for a prosthetic leg for disabled athletes that increases comfort and
fit and decreases sweat that causes skin irritations and discomfort

• An airless soccer ball where the bouncing principle is based on the
mechanical properties of the material and not the air normally inside the ball

The overall winner was Geoff McCue from the US with his idea for an exercise suit with multi-functional resistance patches.

Geoff said "My design was triggered by the variable elasticity of Arnitel Eco, as well as its ability to be shaped into different forms and colors, making it possible to give every resistance level a different color."

For his achievement Geoff won a VIP trip for two to the 2012 Olympic Games in London. There is no word from DSM about whether it will develop any of the submitted innovations, but what it is keen to point out is that the main thrust of the competition was to gain insights into people’s needs and expectations and to start a dialogue with a community of innovators about design and sport, something they want to make an ongoing conversation.

Innovative Communities

Engaging diverse innovation communities is potentially a powerful way for companies to solve problems, generate creative new ideas and innovate faster. DSM maintains a constant dialogue with experts via social media, one of the hot new trends in open innovation. In addition to its open innovation portal it facilitates a LinkedIn group to share challenges and develop solutions.

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