Open Innovation Catalyzes Life-Changing Innovations

Published Sep-25-17

Breakthrough:
A smartphone-based technology platform that dramatically increases the efficiency of infectious disease monitoring and response.

Company:
Vodafone, United States

The Story:

Open Innovation Catalyzes Life-Changing Innovations Multinational telecommunications company Vodafone engages with open innovation in a number of ways. For example, through its Enterprise Innovation Program it provides a place where customers and small enterprises can co-create and rapidly prototype ideas. As part of this, businesses get the innovation ball rolling by participating in half-day innovation workshops.

Vodafone says: "Innovation is about challenging existing ways of doing things, asking the difficult questions and thinking differently. It means bringing the right people together in the right place at the right time, and letting them be creative." According to the company’s website, this has led to new products, services, and revenue streams.

Wireless Innovation Project

Another way the communications giant takes advantage of the opportunities created by open innovation is through contests, such as the Wireless Innovation Project. This is organized by the Vodafone Americas Foundation and seeks to increase wireless related technology for a better world.

"Infrastructure for wireless already exists and now you can put a layer of applications on top of that infrastructure and do amazing things, actually at a very reasonable cost," said Leon Sandler, Executive Director, MIT Deshpande Center and a contest judge.

The 2017 iteration of this open innovation search for breakthrough ideas was focused on two key areas. They were social issues such as economic development, communication and access to education, and technical issues such as connectivity and ease of use.

Applicants had to demonstrate a multi-disciplinary approach to their solutions and up for grabs were awards of $100,000, $200,000, and $300,000 to be paid in equal installments over three years.

Breakthrough Solutions

Once the judges had pored over the submissions a small number of finalists were invited to pitch their ideas in person. This resulted in the selection of three winners.

The first place winner was PathVis, a smartphone-based platform that detects and tracks infectious diseases. The detection technology returns results in less than 30 minutes which can provide organizations with real-time health surveillance data.

In second place was Wiper, an anti-poaching collar for elephants and other animals across Africa. It combines tracking and gunshot detection technology to automatically send alerts of poaching events to relevant authorities in real time.

The third prize winner was DreamSave. This is a mobile financial services solution for people without bank accounts that can help break the cycle of poverty. It provides access to modern financial services to those who previously didn't have access to them.

"It has been great to see how the wireless innovation project will be able to be the catalyst to take these great ideas to something which is actually working and servicing the communities that the ideas seek to support, " commented Amanda Noonan, Strategy Director, Frog Impact and Wireless Innovation Project judge.

Open Innovation is Making a Demonstrable Impact

This was the ninth Wireless Innovation Project and to date, more than $5 million has been awarded to scalable solutions to help create a better world. According to Vodafone, this has directly impacted over 40 million individual lives across more than 40 countries.

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