Tackling the Diabetes Epidemic with Open Innovation

Published Mar-25-12

A new open innovation competition searches for game-changing technologies to make life easier for people living with diabetes.

Sanofi-Aventis, United States

The Story:

Tackling the Diabetes Epidemic with Open Innovation Diabetes is an epidemic that is on the rise. In the US alone more than 1 in 4 Americans is affected by the disease. The overall cost to US healthcare is $2.6 trillion (this equates to about $21,000 per household in the US).

Global healthcare provider Sanofi-Aventis believes that new levels of disruptive innovation can change the lives of millions of people with diabetes. And so in 2011 it sponsored its first ever open innovation competition to combat the epidemic.

The 2011 Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge integrated open data with a human-centered view into diabetes, and awarded $200,000 in total prize money.

During a one month submission period hundreds of ideas were received from all over the world, and these were whittled down to five semi-finalists by a panel of expert judges that included Dennis Urbaniak, VP Us Diabetes, Sanofi-Aventis and Ida Sim, Director, UCSF Center for Clinical and Translational Informatics.

Semi-Finalists Selected

The five semi-finalists each received $20,000, and advice and mentorship from industry leaders in topics such as business modeling, design and technology architecture. And they participated in a design boot camp.

The idea behind these initiatives was to give each semi-finalist help and encouragement to create a prototype of their concept.

Demo Day

The next stage of the open innovation competition was a Demo Day where the semi-finalists had to pitch their concepts. Videos of these were put up on the competition’s website, and the public was able to vote on their favourite for a period of one week.

The two concepts that polled the most votes then went through to the final stage, the Community Uptake, where they were able to test their prototypes in a real community. The winner of the $100,000 prize would be determined by the results.

Competition Winner

The eventual winner was a concept called Ginger.io which turns a normal mobile phone into an automatic self-monitoring tool for tracking real-time movement patterns and social interactions passively, without user input. The algorithms are able to infer a person’s health status based on subtle variations in the ways and places they use their phones.

“The innovation Ginger.io brings to the field is novel. Passive monitoring, combined with the emotional side, as such, is very human centered. Also, the Ginger.io team clearly learned to work together – they are entrepreneurial, very smart, technology savvy, with strong EQ.” Sue Siegel, General Partner, Mohr Davidow Ventures,and one of the competition judges.

Multiple Benefits

One of the fascinating aspects of this open innovation competition was that it continued to hone concepts once they were submitted - through mentorship, public demonstration and eventually the community uptake.

For Sanofi-Aventis the competition had a number of clear benefits:

• It received a plethora of new patient insights
• Had potential products to develop
• Discovered and cultivated new talent

In fact so successful was the 2011 competition, that a new challenge has been launched in 2012.

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