Open Innovation to Rebuild an Economy

Published Mar-28-11

An open innovation competition to get Ireland back on its two feet.

The Government of Ireland, Ireland

The Story:

Open Innovation to Rebuild an Economy For a number of years now governments at all levels in numerous countries have been experimenting with open innovation. The principle aims are to provide better services for constituents and to open up communications between citizens and those who govern them.

Open Innovation for Prosperity

Your Country Your Call was an online open innovation competition in Ireland that was looking for two proposals that would create jobs and prosperity for the country. A generous prize pot was on offer with an award of €100,000 (about USD $140,000) for each of the top two ideas as well as a development fund for implementation of up to €500,000 for each project.

The community-based action initiative had the support of Mary McAleese, the President of Ireland and was launched in February 2010. To ensure the contest’s smooth running, on-demand innovation management company Brightidea was brought in to collect, manage and track ideas.

"The Irish people have a long and proud tradition of creativity. From the poems of William Butler Yeats to the invention of Boolean Algebra - the very foundation of modern computer science - Irish ideas have changed the way the world sees and thinks," said Matthew Greeley, CEO of Brightidea.

The competition was open for ten weeks and during that time the Your Country Your Call website received approximately 117,000 visitors from 176 countries and just over 9,000 submissions.

After a lengthy process of evaluation entries were whittled down to 150 proposals, then 40 and then 20 and then five finalists. Eventually the two winners emerged;

• Neil Leyden for his idea - Creating an International Digital Services Area
• Cianan Clancy and Colm MacFhlannachadha for– The Data Island Strategy

Neil Leyden’s vision is to create an International Digital Services Center to make Ireland a gateway for digital content between the US and Ireland. It includes a Media Park to attract global content industries and he reckons it has the potential to create as many as 45,000 jobs in digital media over the next 10 years.

The Data Island Strategy involves the development of green “mega data centers” and an international innovation area with the creation of 4,000 jobs being envisaged. Both winning ideas went immediately into the development phase.

No Shortage of Ideas

One of the most interesting facts about this open innovation contest was that it was launched at a time of deep pessimism in a country that had been severely hit by the global financial crisis. That so many responded was seen as a sign that people were preparing for an upturn and were willing to use their creativity and ingenuity to help get the country out of a tricky situation.

There was no shortage of brilliant ideas. “Ireland has formidable brain power and it has formidable determination that has been forged and tested over many generations and many, many different circumstances and challenges,” said President McAleese.

The competition was watched closely by other governments who have reached the conclusion that open innovation can radically transform the way people interact with public officials and government bodies to enhance and improve everybody's lives.

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