Corporate Open Innovation Portals: An Active Part of an Open Innovation Strategy

Filed Under Innovation

Arwen Heredia

July 11, 2014

The vast majority of businesses around the globe have long since been citing innovation as a key priority, and because of that, the rising adoption of crowdsourcing and transparent practices are not only encouraging mass ideation, but helping organizations turn fledgling ideas into progressive, global solutions.

Diving In to Open Innovation

From Innovation Management:

“As part of the Open Innovation movement, many companies now actively solicit technical solutions, products and business ideas from innovators, customers, suppliers, and the broader marketplace of technology providers. Some companies have begun utilizing structured innovation submission programs, typically implemented through their corporate websites. This article, the first in a two-part series, helps companies understand Collaborative vs. Direct Portals, and the importance of IP-anti-contamination and efficient filtering in choosing the best innovation portals for their unique situations.

Young inventor invents technical tool for big company” – that’s a news story to which we all respond. The underdog saves the big company with a great idea. That was the story reported in a recent business article in the New York Times (February 22, 2014), a tale of Mark King, a young 21-year-old community-college dropout, who responded to a call for ideas on a website sponsored by General Mills. King responded to a technology problem posted on the company’s website and invented an organoleptic analyzer — a way to measure the texture of granola bars. King’s side of the story is good reading, but we’re interested in the corporate side of that story – why and how companies like General Mills decided to utilize an idea submission program.

Numerous companies – Unilever, General Mills, Shell, DSM, Mars, GSK, Kraft, Crown Holdings to name just a few — have made structured solution or innovation submission programs a functional part of their Open Innovation practice. Other B2B and B2C firms are now paying attention, trying to decide whether to move in this direction, too.

Figure 1: General Mills solicits novel product and business ideas via its online Portal


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In response, an armada of service providers has emerged to help companies design and put such an innovation portal plan into action. Because these programs are still relatively new, it can be challenging to know where to start. has been a service provider in the Open Innovation market since 1999; among technology scouting and other intellectual property services, we provide custom and turnkey Open Innovation Portal Programs to corporate clients. We are happy to take the opportunity to suggest how companies can navigate their way toward an effective idea submission program, one that will be a useful part of product development in an active Open Innovation program.

Collaborative vs. Direct Innovation Portals

Corporations are currently using several different implementation models to accomplish their innovation submission goals. Most structured programs, like that of Unilever, for example, take the form of a dedicated micro-site linked off of the corporate website – called “innovation portals.” Some companies limit their portals simply to encouraging and collecting ideas as they come in. Other companies additionally list their current technology needs, in order to encourage responses to those specific technical challenges. Both Unilever and General Mills, for example, include their own technical challenges. It was to one of the posted challenges in General Mills’ G-Win program that Mark King responded.”

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