Open Innovation Gets Dutch Company Out of a Sticky Situation
A global science-based company was only able to solve a technical problem with a new adhesive resin by adopting an open innovation approach.
E-850 is an adhesive resin developed by scientists at DSM, a global science company involved in health, nutrition and materials. The resin is the main component of one of the company’s glues used with wood laminates, and has numerous desirable qualities. It’s very strong, suffers from less fatigue, is water borne, formaldehyde free and VOC free, and ticked many of the boxes for a strong and powerful adhesive.
However, there was one major problem with it that puzzled the firm’s scientists. And that was the resin was consistently getting delaminated whenever a waterborne lacquer was applied to it. And despite every effort to fix it, a solution could not be found.
Open Innovation to the Rescue
So the company decided to adopt an open innovation approach and present its sticky challenge both to scientists inside and outside the organization. It posted the “E-850 Challenge” on numerous channels such as Twitter and Yammer which linked to a presentation on the SlideShare website. This presentation summarised the problem, and outlined what the company had already discovered in trying to come up with a solution itself.
And to really focus eyeballs and minds it offered a 10,000 prize for the person who could crack the problem.
DSM had already learned that:
1) The adhesive film does not dissolve in water so it is not water sensitive.
2) Adhesive was still present on the two delaminated sides which meant that adhesion to wood was sufficient.
3) Delamination also occurs when water is applied instead of the lacquer, so water is responsible for the delamination not a component of the lacquer.
4) Delamination most probably doesn’t occur during application of the lacquer, but only during or after drying.
5) Without lacquer the mechanical properties of the laminate are good, so the adhesive is strong enough.
Experimenting with Open Innovation
DSM had two principle motivations for choosing to work with external sources of brainpower - the first being to actually find a solution that had hitherto evaded it, and secondly the company was looking to experiment and innovate with the way it interacts with the world.
Collaborative Problem Solving
As the challenge progressed DSM realized that one of the best ways to arrive at a solution would be to generate discussion amongst participants.
“In order to benefit the most from your collective brain power and experience, and since the best ideas are born in discussions and through cooperation, we decided to start a blog about the challenge,” explained Eric Pras, the business development manager at DSM.
Eventually a solution was arrived at, and it came not from a single individual, but through the efforts of five people who collaborated on the problem. They included a technician in resins from Arizona Chemicals in the Netherlands, and a professor from Switzerland’s Institute of Materials and Process Engineering.
DSM’s open innovation experiment was a resounding success. The company acquired the solution it needed, and gained a deeper understanding of the benefits of the OI mode of work. It also saw firsthand the benefits of a collaborative approach to problem solving; principally that combining expertise from diverse perspectives can deliver deeper insights and solutions not normally available when individuals just work on their own.
Next Story »