Open Innovation Takes Chile By Storm
Chile’s first government sponsored open innovation contest looked for ideas to tackle a number of water-related issues.
Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism, Chile
The government of Chile has embarked on a number of initiatives to encourage its citizens to become more involved in entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation. The overall aim is to ultimately break away from the country's reliance on the mining industry.
Chile Welcomes Open Innovation
One particularly fresh approach has been a flirtation with open innovation, and in the summer of 2011 Chile’s Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism launched the country’s first ever government sponsored open innovation competition.
Called 'Chile se Escurre' (Chile is drained) the contest was powered by innovation intermediary Brightidea and sought solutions for some of the incredible water challenges facing Chile today - such as reduction in the loss from drainage, reduction in consumption and reuse and treatment. It challenged participants to think differently, to use unconstrained thought processes for the generation of ideas.
The competition was open to all Chilean residents, including foreign residents and during the five week submission period it attracted thousands of participants and more than 800 ideas. They were judged by an expert panel that included members of government ministries and leading innovators amongst others. Submissions were adjudicated on their scope, environmental impact, economic impact, feasibility of implementation, legislative impact and cultural impact. And in addition to the top three prize winning places, there were also a number of honourable mentions and a vote for the public's favourite innovation.
The first prize and a check for 20 million pesos (approx. USD $40,000) went to a team that had come up with a way of allowing individuals to monitor their water consumption via the Internet. It makes use of a small device that employs virtual and physical sensors and predictive analytics software to keep tabs on suspected leaks and abnormal consumption activity.
The second prize and a check for 12 million pesos (approx. USD $23,000) was awarded to a team that devised a technology to treat recycled waste water, removing contaminants, chemicals and heavy metals without the need for chemicals.
The third place winner was an idea that uses fish flakes in a biotechnology process to remove arsenic from natural waters. The problem of arsenic in water is particularly acute in the region of Antofagasta where water contains about 0.01mg/L of arsenic, and there is endemic regional chronic hydroarsenicism (an arsenic poisoning disease that can lead to heart, liver and kidney complications). Third place attracted a check of 5 million pesos (approx. USD $9,500).
Driving Chile Forward
The country’s first ever open innovation contest put people at its heart, believing that it’s their ideas that can drive Chile forward. These sentiments were echoed in a Washington Post article in August 2011 by Vivek Wadhwa, a technology entrepreneur and academic who has acted as an advisor to the Chilean government. He wrote: “buildings and industry don’t make innovation happen – people do”.
The competition provided valuable recognition for participants and for winners who hope to take their ideas to the next level. For the Ministry of Economy Development, and Tourism it provided proof that there is a wealth of creative and intellectual potential to be found in some of the country’s citizens. So much so that future versions of the open innovation contest are being considered.
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