Open Innovation is a catchy phrase, but I don’t think we are that close to it, as many people claim. Innocentive, InnovationXchange or NineSigma operate in the very small market, and this market does not seem to grow as fast as we would wish. Innocentive posted some statistics as of 2nd of June, 2009, so given these numbers and amount of open challenges, it’s safe to assume that as of today, around total of 1000 challenges were posted and ca. half of them were awarded. If you compare that numbers with almost 200 0000 patents issued only by US Patent Office in 2006, it gives a clear picture of the size of the market open innovation crowdsourcing companies (edit: as Jean-Claude points out in the FriendFeed comment, Innocentive and the other two companies mentioned earlier are rather crowdsourcing, not “open innovation” companies) are operating in. There are plenty of reasons why OI did not yet become mainstream (too many to list) and for that to happen, there are two important steps that we need to make first.
Open Science must become mainstream
I’ve been advocating Open Science for some time and I’m following Open Science luminaries for much, much longer. At some point it hit me that Open Science in its fullest form is not an issue that scientists can truly solve by themselves. Open Science crosses domain of Science – it’s an issue for Science, Politics and Business. We should experiment with various ways the research is done, collaborate openly, attempt to invent new business models to fund science and spread “open” meme as much we can. However, the real deal will be made between people in power from these three domains. Why this is necessary to achieve that before we may fully innovate in the open? Because in this step we will sort out all the problems we have today with intellectual property and technology transfer (both being not efficient enough for today’s standards). I cannot envision that happening in other domain – we are paid to collaborate and test ideas. This community is able to hit every major obstacle to “open” in a very short time. And once we have these obstacles removed there’s a next step:
Working models of Open Science should be tested outside of Science
In other words I postulate that whatever solutions work in domain of Science, these should be tested outside of it, in other domains. Not vice versa. Principles of Open Source software did not prove to be useful in open drug development (see Joerg’s post on the topic). Crowdsourcing will not advance quantum physics. Not all aspects of collective intelligence are working in Science. We simply need to invent working solutions within the domain first, and then test them in other domains, such as art or engineering. This step will provide another set of protocols, changes and adjustments that will allow seekers and solvers (to use Innocentive’s nomenclature) to work efficiently together crossing every domain.
Open Innovation is not a single step
I may be proved wrong by some genius that will solve Open Innovation proovedissues in a single brilliant step, but so far I believe that we need more than one to achieve this goal. And it is important to recognize that Open Science is a great opportunity to come closer to it. The sooner we realize it, the better.