GE’s Ecomagination Challenge: Smart Grid, powered by Brightidea, produced record-breaking results for an open innovation campaign. Over 70,000 businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students from almost every part of the world collaborated in this groundbreaking endeavor, submitting 3,000+ ideas and casting 120,000+ votes. Launched on a scale and magnitude never before seen, the challenge underscored the viability of new models for sourcing and funding new ideas.
Now comes the fun part as GE, along with some of the world's most well-known venture capital firms including Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and RockPort Capital have announced who will receive part of the $200 million project funding.
Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE announced initial investments totaling $55 million are being split between 12 projects, five for grid management, five for energy efficiency & conservation, one for new product development and one for theoretical concept development.
The first ten partners are Consert, FMC-Tech, JouleX, OPOWER, Secure RF, Sentient Energy, Scientific Conservation, Soladigm, SustainX and SynapSense. The new product to receive funding is a solar-powered air conditioning unit, developed by ClimateWell, a cleantech company based in Sweden. GE decided to pursue the project because of the “fertile arena for clean tech products that can be sold in the home,” Immelt said. The theoretical concept GE will be working on is building efficient electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, an initiative to be headed in conjunction with Columbia University Engineering.
GE is also going beyond the $200 million already pledged by rewarding five additional grants of $100,000 for products that show promise but are still in the early-concept development phase. The winners of the grants are IceCode, GridOn, Capstone Metering, Electric Route Systems and WinFlex. As 15% of submissions in the challenge were from students, GE is also investing $10 million a year in academic partnerships to promote technological advancement through education. And of course the crowd-favorite, Solar Roadways, won the $100,000 popular vote prize as announced last month.
For the other thousands of ideas that did not receive funding, GE is committed to passing on top submissions to universities, government agencies and other institutions that can provide resources and support to help bring those ideas to market.
Immelt went on to praise the power of crowdsourcing and open innovation. He stated, “none of us is as powerful as all of us” and “ideas will allow us to accelerate our future”, stressing the importance of leveraging the power of the internet to seek new ideas. For GE, growth is critically tied to being open and finding new ways to engage small companies while fostering relationships with investment partners.
Embracing open innovation is only effective when a clear process is defined to manage and implement ideas. Using Brighitdea's innovation management software, GE was able to accomplish in 90 days what some companies can’t do in years. Matt Greeley, CEO of Brightidea boils it down to the essentials stating, “consider this: when companies want to brainstorm today they cram 10 people in a meeting room with a whiteboard. Now try brainstorming with 65k+ people over the web as GE has done. It’s a quantum leap forward that increases organizations potential to innovate: cheaper, faster, better.”
The Ecomagination Challenge website, built on Brightidea software, offers visitors a dynamic, rich user-experience in an online innovation community with dozens of ways to interact, stay informed and participate. GE fully leveraged the capabilities of the Brightidea software including:
• Proposal Submission, Voting and Collaboration
• Team Submission
• Public and Private Submission Fields
• Share and Promote Ideas on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
• Integration with Google Maps
• Mobile iPhone App
• Advanced Routing and Prioritization to Subject Matter Experts
• Private Collaboration Rooms for Idea Development & Decision-Making
Although the voting period has ended, Ecomagination will continue to accept submissions and promote collaboration among innovators and support environmental awareness.