Siemens Smart Grid Innovation Contest

Published May-21-12

A global open innovation ideas search for smarter, flexible and more intelligent energy networks.

Siemens, Germany

The Story:

Siemens Smart Grid Innovation Contest In 2005 the European Union adopted the Smart Grid concept to improve on energy efficiency and cut down on waste. But the power grids face a number of challenges, not least of which is an insufficient infrastructure.

To encourage more customer-orientated and sustainable concepts German technology giant Siemens hosted its Smart Grid Innovation Contest.
Open to everyone, the underlying goals were to encourage and accelerate open innovation in this field and to boost the international Smart Grid community. In particular, the contest wanted the crowd to come up with new game changing business models, applications for new customer benefits and disruptive technologies.

Two Phase Competition

The contest was divided into two distinct phases. The first phase was an open call to the public, inviting everyone with an interest in a smart energy future regardless of their experience (or lack of) in the energy sector. A prize purse of 15,000 Euros was on offer (approx $USD 21,000). The second phase was a Call-for-Proposals to universities and the winner had to be willing to work on a research project in cooperation with Siemens or write a PhD dissertation. Siemens has a 1 million Euro budget for realising the best ideas.

In phase one, ideas were submitted to a user-friendly online platform. Members of the open innovation community were free to comment and offer feedback which allowed participants to modify their concepts if they felt it necessary. Prizes were also awarded for the most helpful comments and evaluations.

In addition to the community adjudication of ideas, a jury of energy experts including top Siemens executives ultimately selected the winners.

The competition was a popular draw among innovators and the stats are impressive. A total of 2080 members signed up to join the online community, 448 ideas were submitted which garnered 3639 detailed evaluations and 2197 comments.

Phase One Winners Selected

In July 2011 the jury selected five winners and the three most valuable contributors, and three months later they travelled to Siemens offices in Berlin to exchange their ideas with the company’s management team and experts.

Among the winning proposals were:

First Prize - "Multy-Agent System for Operation of a Smart Grid" - "Autonomous Distributed Power System Restoration" – by Logenthiran Thillainathan, National University of Singapore, (Singapore).

Second Prize - “Smart Grids - comparison or regulatory approaches and their implications on business models" – by Christian Huder EIT ICT Labs, (Germany). This idea provided insights in comparing regulatory approaches and their implications on business models concerning smart grids.

At the time of writing this article (April 2012) Phase Two Winners have not yet been selected.

Motivation for Participation

When the winners and most valuable contributors were asked about what attracted them to participate, the common answer was not the prestige of winning the award, but the chance of registering on Siemens’ radar, with a view to working for the company.

Advantages of Open Innovation Contests

In addition to uncovering solutions there are numerous other advantages to hosting open innovation competitions including:

Presenting a challenge to the world and offering a reward raises awareness about an issue.

It acts as positive PR for a company or organisation as it demonstrates commitment and thought about a particular field.

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