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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


R&D by asking the world !

By Rod Digges, on 21 January 2010



If you’re very pressed for time and interested in how this posting might
help you in your teaching you can go straight to the end of this
article, if you have a minute to spare, read on….

The internet continues to provide interesting new models of working and
although not new (8 years old in fact) the Innocentive web presence has
now established itself firmly in the arena of collaborative R&D.

Being relatively new to UCL but knowing the wealth of talent that exists
here, I had assumed that many people would have heard of innocentive,
but conversations with colleagues and academics, so far at least, have
proved this assumption to be wrong. So in light of the above I thought
it might be worth circulating some information about the site in the
hope that others may find it interesting or useful.

I won’t go into too much detail here about innocentive as
simply following the above URL will allow anyone interested to explore
the site and the collaborative models it provides in depth.
In a nutshell, the innocentive website provides a space where
companies/institutions faced with particular R&D problems can
‘challenge’ a community of ‘seekers’ to provide innovative solutions –
I’m sure this has been done elsewhere, but innocentive have done it
particularly well – their recently announced partnership with the
publishers of Nature in the US gives an indication of how well the site is regarded.

In addition to Innocentive’s commercial partnerships an agreement with
the Rockefeller foundation in 2006 has lead to Innocentive providing a space for
non-profit ‘seekers’ particularly aimed at providing technology solutions
to pressing problems in the third world – so it’s an interesting mix of
for profit and altruistic challenges.

The innocentive model gives much ‘food for thought’ in areas such
(global) knowledge transfer, IP, research & collaboration and the
effectiveness of ‘crowdsourcing’ (apparently 50% of solutions come from
people who’s domain of expertise lie outside that of the ‘perceived’
problem domain.

Whatever you may think of the innocentive model – brilliant idea or R&D
on cheap – it does provide those who want to integrate problem based
learning into their course materials with a set of ready-made real
world problems and for this reason alone its worth taking a

With students finding it harder prove themselves and find places after graduating
wouldn’t a UK or European innocentive be one place where students might prove themselves before graduating?

The question in my mind is – Why haven’t we got something as open and innovative as this in Europe or the UK? – maybe we have and I just need a pointer….anybody?