InnoCentive and the Air Force Research Lab Announce Successful Completion of Initial Open Innovation Challenges

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Waltham, Mass. – October 17, 2011 – InnoCentive, Inc., the pioneer in open innovation and crowdsourcing, and the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) today announced the successful outcomes of two Challenges posted in March 2011 in the Tec^Edge Pavilion on the InnoCentive website.

The first Challenge, titled “Vehicle Stopper,” sought a viable, sustainable and affordable means of stopping an uncooperative fleeing vehicle without causing permanent damage to the vehicle or harming any of its occupants. The Challenge attracted 1,071 Solvers and resulted in 119 submitted solutions.

The winning Solver, Dante Barbis, a retired 66-year-old mechanical engineer from Lima, Peru, proposed a solution consisting of a remote electric-powered vehicle able to accelerate up to 130 MPH within three seconds, position itself under a fleeing car, then automatically trigger a restrained airbag to lift the car and slide it to a stop. This design is almost universally applicable to multiple scenarios and meets the AFRL requirement for cost.

AFRL has assigned a team and allocated funding to build and test a prototype based on Barbis’ detailed design. If the system passes all the operational testing, the prototype will be demonstrated to the USAF Security Forces and the design will be transitioned for operational use.

“Open innovation is a real force multiplier for the AFRL,” said Alok Das, leader of the rapid reaction force at the Air Force Research Laboratory. “By opening this Challenge up to the world through InnoCentive, we were able to multiply the number of people thinking about this problem over 100-fold, and received a workable solution within a 60-day period. The quality of this solution is outstanding and energized our junior workforce team to quickly test and deliver a solution to our Air Force warfighters.”

The second Challenge, “Humanitarian Air Drop,” requested a new method for dropping large quantities of humanitarian food and water packages from an aircraft into populated areas with no danger of falling objects, including non-food items, causing harm to those on the ground.  1,137 Solvers participated in the Challenge and 163 solutions were submitted.

In the end, the AFRL decided to award two Solvers, both of whom provided ways to eject only the relief packages and presented the possibility of delivering humanitarian aid even in populated areas.

The first solution came from Agung Nuswantoro, a self-employed engineer from Tangerang City in the Republic of Indonesia. His plan consisted of a hopper system with a powered conveyer to eject the supplies, an idea based on proven technologies used in the coal industry. Different items could be placed in each hopper and their release reprogrammed based on evolving intelligence information up to the point of the drop. Also, the height of the drop could be as short or long as needed with no need to change the pitch angle of the aircraft for release.

The second solution was from Siepko Bekkering, an engineer working for an international engineering consulting firm from the Netherlands. His solution consisted of a modular container system with rollers on the inside and a chute to move the contents past the wake vortex caused by the open ramp in flight. This system could be loaded with a normal fork lift and easily snapped together. This system was similar to systems currently in use, but completely eliminated the box and skid plate from exiting the aircraft.

AFRL has assigned a team and is considering a two-pronged approach to moving these solutions forward. An AFRL-led junior force team will build and test key elements of one solution. A contract team will work to develop the second solution. Both teams will provide a detailed design for AMC approval. Based on the results of this dual approach, the team will design a final prototype and an operational test unit will be ready by November 2012. AMC will oversee validation of the approaches, both in ground testing simulating an airdrop and possibly in a real drop test at a national test site. If the new design passes this operational test, it will be transitioned for operational use.

According to Dr. Das, “If successful, the Air Force will be able to deliver humanitarian aid directly to the needy populations quickly. This new capability will be less expensive, since they will not have to secure a drop zone, and more effective, since it will be delivered directly where the people are located. The quality of these solutions has energized the AFRL junior workforce team to quickly bring this concept to operational use.”

“The success of the AFRL Challenges represents the most promising outcome of the U.S. Government’s innovation stimulus initiatives,” said Dwayne Spradlin, CEO, InnoCentive. “When an organization like the U.S. Military can embrace open innovation and experience the kinds of groundbreaking success we’re seeing today, the possibilities are limitless.”

About InnoCentive, Inc.

InnoCentive is the open innovation and crowdsourcing pioneer that enables organizations to solve their key problems by connecting them to diverse sources of innovation including employees, customers, partners and the world’s largest problem solving marketplace. InnoCentive’s proven Challenge Driven Innovation methodology, community of millions of problem Solvers, and cloud-based technology platform combine to fundamentally transform the economics of innovation and R&D through rapid solution delivery and the development of sustainable open innovation programs. Leading commercial, government and nonprofit organizations, such as Eli Lilly, Life Technologies, NASA,, Popular Science, Procter & Gamble, Roche, Rockefeller Foundation and The Economist, partner with InnoCentive to solve problems and innovate faster and more cost-effectively than ever before.

By Wazoku

Wazoku is an innovation SaaS business that helps some of the world’s biggest organizations to innovate at scale. Whether it’s making the most of your employee's ideas, identifying new partners to collaborate with, or exploring the boundless potential of open innovation – or all three! – Wazoku makes innovation happen.