Solution for Microwave Oven Heating Problem

Published Feb-05-10

A technology developed from a medical application to provide even heating of food in a microwave oven.

A Fortune 500 Consumer Products Company

The Story:

Solution for Microwave Oven Heating Problem One of the many advantages to companies that decide to utilize open innovation is the cross boundary approach to solving technical challenges. A number of organizations have found the answers they need in completely unrelated industries.

Microwave Oven Challenge

This is aptly illustrated by one particular Fortune 500 consumer products company that was searching for suitable technologies that could be adapted to provide even heating of food in a microwave oven. It approached NineSigma to see if the answers would come from its global innovation and technology network.

Before sending out the Request for Proposal (RFP) the open innovation broker worked with its client to define the technology need and the approaches that would be considered.

Determining the nature of the challenge is an integral part of making open innovation work. If the RFP is too limited there is a danger that no proposals will be forthcoming. If it is too broad the opposite will happen, and most likely they won’t address the issue at hand.

In this particular instance the client was seeking a new material or new method that would make uneven microwave heating a thing of the past.

The RFP was circulated to inventors, academics, microwave technologists and a number of companies of varying sizes. Before long a small smattering of interesting potential solutions were submitted.

Solutions Submitted

One that caught the solution seeker’s attention came from a novel source. A European research and development organization put forward a proposal based on a technology involving a particular medical application and the processing of biological matter. This had been developed by them for the Department of Defense.

The seeker studied the proposal in detail and found a promising resolution in the medical application. The company saw how it could be applied to even-heat food for use in the consumer market.

The fix had come from a source that was not immediately apparent; the seeker had not been thinking along these lines when it tried to answer the problem.

Open Innovation: Challenge and Benefits

Open innovation is a huge undertaking for many leading organizations, specifically those that are nervous about venturing outside their own walls to augment their R&D departments. But there are many world beating companies such as Kraft, DuPont and General Mills who are doing just that to innovate quicker and to speed up the time it takes to get a product to market.

As with the case of the microwave heating solution the answer was already out there, and it came from the most unlikely of sources. Major global brand are finding that open innovation creates some astounding new partnerships bringing with them substantial successes.

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