Open Venture Challenge

Published May-12-10

An open innovation initiative to seek new business ideas to help a leading cancer charity raise funds to tackle the disease. A new fundraising model was developed that can also be applied to businesses to help them generate new ideas.

Cancer Research UK, United Kingdom

The Story:

Open Venture Challenge Cancer Research UK, one of the UK’s leading cancer charities decided to turn to open innovation to help it raise more money to beat cancer. It was looking for fresh and new ideas to secure more funds. And so it approached knowledge brokers and online collaborators to set up a challenge platform that would seek new business ventures to tackle one of the world’s biggest killers.

Radical Fundraising Model

Together they came up with a radically new fundraising model called the Open Venture Challenge. It was launched in 2008 to bring together businesspeople, social entrepreneurs and other interested parties to form a community and generate new ideas. "It's a really, really cost-effective way of doing it," said Kevin Waudby, the head of Cancer Research UK’s Radical Innovation Unit. "At the same time, you're getting the right expertise in the room or the community in order to generate the ideas."

There were four parts to the challenge: kick-off, ideation, team building and business development. To ensure that the very best ideas made it through, feedback from the community was encouraged and used to judge and prioritize the ideas. Shortlisted teams than had to pitch to the charity’s Venture Board for a chance to partner with it or receive £10, 000 (approx. USD $15,000) investment capital to pilot the idea.

Brain Power to Beat Cancer

This open innovation approach attracted 600 registered users who merged into teams to share their ideas via the web, and over 150 new ideas were generated. This yielded 6 shortlisted candidates and 3 supported ventures.

“It's extremely exciting to see open innovation methods, normally used by private companies, applied to the fundraising sector to produce such coherent and strong ideas,” said a spokesman for NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts).

“The challenge has proved that collaborative models such as open innovation can be translated to different areas, creating entirely new ventures from scratch. This has the potential to revolutionize the way companies look for business partners."

The winning ventures were:

Extraordinary Experiences – a national raffle for the chance to win a ‘money cannot buy experience.’

Open Gym – a network of outdoor fitness clubs providing weekly sessions in local parks. All the proceeds go to Cancer Research UK.

Project Rose – a student-run initiative where students pre-order and buy silk roses that are then delivered anonymously on Valentine’s Day.

The new ventures are expected to help the Cancer Research UK’s innovation unit generate funds of £10 million (approx. USD $15 million) a year.

The charity believes that open innovation is an effective way for it to build innovative communities, to ask more engaging questions and generate better ideas.

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