When you see an innovation opportunity on the COSIA website, you are looking at one of the most difficult challenges in our industry that even innovators with the most knowledge and expertise have been unable to solve to date.
COSIA is often asked how we source new ideas from innovators for these opportunities. We communicate them to a targeted innovation network through our website, social media and other forums. But in terms of innovator engagement, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Over the last few years, we’ve recognized that sourcing solutions for COSIA’s innovation priorities is not a one-size-fits-all, so we’ve been refining our innovator engagement process.
COSIA’s role is to accelerate innovation and part of that role is to connect with the right people in the innovation community. But before we jump to engagement, we first need to look at the specifics of the innovation and ask ourselves if we know what solution we are looking to source? And do we know who can provide the solution?
Let’s take a simple example: say we need to better understand the dynamics of a new chemical compound. In this example, we understand the research that needs to be done and we know a professor at a university who has the background to undertake the work. In these instances, we contact the professor directly, explain the problem, and work through a process to finalise a research proposal. It’s pretty straightforward.
At the other end of the spectrum is the COSIA Clay Challenge, which is a call to better understand the behaviour of clay particles in tailings. We don’t know the full suite of potential solutions available and we don’t know who in the innovation community could provide a solution. In these instances, we need to document and define the problem so that our technical requirements are clear. We also need to identify who in the innovation community could potentially help us solve the problem.
This process is the equivalent of putting our line in the water hoping to snag the proverbial fish. The probability of finding the right innovator and a potential solution is relatively low, so we need to cast our net as wide as possible.
A more complex example is where we believe the development of an innovation solution requires collaborating with a number of key innovators. In these instances, there are several engagement tools we can use:
• Request for Proposal – soliciting targeted innovators with an expectation that among them is one who has the solution we need.
• Expert Workshop – sharing detailed information of the opportunity with key innovators.
• Curated community – building long-term relationships with a number of innovators to understand the problem better and create momentum towards a solution.
• Technology sprint – enabling innovators to complete specific work over a set period of time.
Each of these tools has advantages and disadvantages which need to be assessed prior to committing to one approach. Over the years, we have used all of them with varying degrees of success and we continue to learn and improve as we go.
Interested in other stories in our Innovation Hacks series?
• Propelling start-ups to the finish line
• Measuring the value of innovation
• The COSIA innovation model: getting to commercialization faster
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