Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Unilever Embraces Co-Creation

Crowdsourcing and open innovation initially started out as a lifeline for those small and medium enterprises, as well as aspiring individuals, looking to make their mark in their chosen field. From design to film making and even collaborative entrepreneurial ventures, crowdsourcing was the new kid on the block for the new kids on the block. Soon however, the big  names sat up and took notice. Aside from the cost advantage, crowdsourcing offered big brand names the opportunity to connect directly with their market demographics. One of the first of these multi-nationals to enter the foray of crowdsourcing was Unilever, behind such well known names as Ben and Jerry's ice cream, CiF cleaning liquid and the popular meaty snack Pepperami. Now Unilever are looking to enter another field of crowdsourcing, co-creation and from the 1st June 2013, began a partnership with eYeka, one of its leading service providers

In 2010 Unilever caused an uproar in the advertising industry by severing its long term relationship with agency Lowe and Partners. Instead of the traditional form of devising an advertising campaign, Unilever opted to run a crowdsourcing competition in search for a new campaign. The competition attracted over 1200 entries and netted its winners a $10,000 cash prize. The result was a successful and innovative campaign that reduced Unilever's costs by nearly 60% of its regular marketing budget. Crowdsourcing became the staple means by which Unilever would go on to market their products by connecting directly with potential customers, since those in the crowd who contribute ideas are also consumers. 

Clearly seeing the wisdom in using the crowd to source campaign ideas, Unilever would do the same with open innovation to source product ideas. Unilever launched an open innovation hub through which they sought the help of the crowd to innovate their existing products as well as search for new ones but focusing more on the environment, health and hygiene. Unilever are no strangers to co-creation having employed eYeka, the leading provider of co-creation services, working for an assortment of Unilever brands including Lux, Lipton, and Cornetto. 
The Unilever and eYeka partnership is a world-first because of its strategic nature and ambition. This is a strong signal that confirms that crowdsourcing is being recognised as a business accelerator. We have long advocated turning to consumers for ideas and content with consumers as a source of competitive advantage so we are thrilled to partner with Unilever to bring this approach to a new scale. - François Pétavy, Chief Executive Officer, eYeka
This new partnership will see Unilever implement co-creation on a much bigger scale, equal to that of previous crowdsourcing ventures. Since the partnership has gone live, eYeka's community of 250,000 members will not just be working on one or two products but generating innovative ideas across the company's entire brand spectrum covering international markets in Asia Pacific, South Africa and the Middle East. By tapping into eYeka's vast community resource, Unilever is looking for relevant and creative campaigns accelerated for a global market.

Image Credit; The HUB Network 

Monday, 17 June 2013

GE Launch 3D Printing Open Innovation Challenges

The rise of Additive Manufacturing, or 3D Printing as it is more commonly known, has become a subject of great interest for innovation, fun, and even controversy. Corporate innovation leaders GE have launched two open innovation challenges, in partnership with leading platforms GrabCAD and NineSigma. The challenges call on engineers to design components that are lighter and more flexible but are still able to meet maximum performance goals. Both challenges consist of two phases, design and prototype manufacture, with the winning entrants being awarded significant cash prizes.

3D Printing Design Quest

The first of GE's partnership challenges features GrabCAD, a platform founded in 2010 to enable engineers to collaborate with each other on innovative designs and breakthroughs. This partnership and the challenge is looking for innovative designs for lighter yet durable components for the development of air engine brackets. These brackets have posed a challenge for engineers in the trade off between strength & stiffness and size and weight, making current methods of production to be constrictive. The first phase of this challenge which started from 12th June and due to end on 26th July 2013, calls for design submissions that use additive manufacturing to produce engine brackets lighter in weight yet meet maximum performance goals.

Image Credit; Dave-F
The bracket's are integral part of the aircraft and so must provide support to the weighty engine without breaking or losing their shape, which will be assessed by simulation tests. The top ten designs will be awarded a cash prize of $1,000 and progress to the second phase, the additive manufacture of the brackets. This phase will run from 15th August to 15th November 2013 and see the prototypes rigorously tested in a variety of load designs. The top eight selected will received awards from a prize pool with a total $20,000 value. Click here for more information including how to enter and terms & conditions.

3D Printing Production Quest
High Precision and Advanced Materials

GE has invested considerably in open innovation projects particularly in the medical field in search of innovative procedures and development of equipment. In partnership with NineSights, part of the NineSigma open innovation platform,  GE have called for the design of customisable parts using additive manufacturing, parts to be used in medical imaging and equipment. These components are usually made using high density, high atomic number metals which can inflexible and difficult to shape. The challenge looks to make use of additive manufacturing in the production of components with more flexibility but the same durability and strength.

Image Credit; B L Murch
As with the previous challenge the 3D Printing Production Quest consists of two phases. The first phases, which started from 11th June till 26th July 2013, calls for capabilities submissions. The top ten winning entrants will receive $5,000 and an invitation  to progress to the next phase to commence in October. Participants will be allocated a $5,000 budget to fabricate a working prototype from materials as well as CAD specifications. The participants have until January 2014 to bring their winning designs to life which will be tested in accordance to required specs. The three winners will each receive a cash prize of $50,000 and the opportunity to collaborate further with GE in other projects. Click here for more information including how to enter and terms & conditions.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

How UK Crowdfunding is Helping Towards a Clearner and Greener Environment

It is hard to ignore the increasing news reports of the effects of climate change.Whether it is global warming, food shortages, or increased rates of carbon dioxide, the change which is reported to irrevocably harm our planet has over decades been met with a call to for radical change in human living. Renewable and clean energy, sustainable crops, and cutting emissions have become a part of human vocabulary and daily life. Through crowdfunding various projects and platforms have helped raise awareness and bring means to life of switching to alternative energies, greener transport, and growing our own food. Here are a few examples.
Image Credit; Free Grunge Textures
The Bristol Cycling Manifesto

Bristol is increasingly cementing its reputation as a cycling city. Sales are on the rise, along with the provision of painted cycle lanes as well as off road routes in and out of the city. Last year crowdfunding played a big part in securing the establishment of Roll For The Soul, a one stop cafe and resource centre for all things cycling related. The project exceeded its funding target and Roll For The Soul is due to open later in the summer. Recently crowdfunding once again has helped secure funding for an initiative to usher Bristol into a new cycling age. 

The idea behind the Bristol Cycling Manifesto calls on the city's Mayor-led council to implement a comprehensive road framework for cyclists. These include a segregated and interconnected cycling freeway into and out of the city, lower speed limits (20 mph), and creation of map detailing all off road and/or cycle-centric routes. Project owner Eric Booth needed £800 and turned to crowdfunding via Crowdfunder for to raise the necessary funds. The campaign was a success raising £917 and plans are under to put the manifesto together along with a petition campaign to get sufficient support for a council debate.

Whirliglo Verticle Food Planter

Food shortages and increased costs are increasing the levels of people in starvation in both more affluent nations as well those in the developing world. Whirliglo is a vertical food planter that stands at 1 metre tall and can grow between 30 - 60 individual plants. It is designed to facilitate food growth in homes with little or no growing space, making it ideal for urban neigbourhoods. The man with the plan, Ian Findlay, needed £4,000 to develop working prototypes to be field tested. For this Ian sought funds through the crowdfunding platform  Bloom VC, and offered as part of the reward scheme a number of successfully tested prototypes. The campaign was a success and the Whirliglo Verticle Food Planter exceeded the £4,000 target. 

The plan however proposed going beyond just marketing the units for urban households looking to save on produce shopping. More ambitious plans using the model of the Whirliglo include creating viable plots for planting from derelict brown lands, composting projects, and taking the Whirliglo idea to be used in developing countries. Food shortage and poverty are leaving millions starving around the world. Thanks to crowdfunding, the Whirliglo planter could  pave the way to feeding the hungry and making food shortages a thing of the past. 

Image Credit; Ell Brown 
Abundance Generation

Many projects find their funds through various crowdfunding service providers, yet one UK platform was established solely for projects aimed at providing clean, renewable energy. Abundance Generation, at first reads like an equity - based crowdfunding platform as it talks about investments and returns, which might frighten some people away. However the opportunity to invest is open to anyone who wishes to help bolster support for clean energy, by donating as little as £5 for the project of their choice with the potential to double their investment

Interested investors register with Abundance Generation and browse the available projects in search of funding. Investments are then made by purchasing debentures, essentially legal IOUs produced by the energy project owner. Throughout the life term of the debenture, which can be as long as 25 years, the investor receives a fixed percentage of revenue generated from the energy produced. To date three projects, supplying energy through wind and solar power, have secured total funds of £2,285,000.

Planning permission for new developments are risky and unsettling with communities fearing for the loss of green belt land, or domination of their communities by big businesses, to name a few. Spacehive is the UK's first crowdfunding platform for civic projects and developments. Visitors can browse for projects benefiting communities such as play parks or leisure centres and pledging a monetary donation, and if successfully funded, see the project come to fruition. 
Spacehive is also accessible for anyone with ideas for developing facilities for their community including  local people with ideas for green spaces, as well as professional designers and businesses pitching ideas to communities directly. 

Image Credit; Tim Parkinson 
The projects featured on Spacehive include the creation of an urban oasis in the city of Manchester, building of a new play area in Hanover to encourage children to be more fit and active as well as a herb garden and transformation of a disused building into a gallery. With the coalition government's controversial decision to relax the UK's planning laws, Spacehive offers the possibility for more environmentally focused, and most needed projects suitably in keeping with the community.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

OUYA Crowdfunded Gaming Console Makes its Début

The Gazette would like to welcome a new contributor, Janelle Pierce. As well as enjoying learning and writing about crowdfunding Janelle is passionate about seeing people succeed and absolutely loves backing projects in the areas of art, cinema, and game making. In her spare time Janelle enjoys the great outdoors and spends time with her friends and family while camping. Welcome Janelle.

On August 9th, 2012 OUYA, the world’s first crowdfunded gaming console, was successfully funded via crowdfunding on Kickstarter. With an original funding target of $950,000 the OUYA raised nearly $8.6 million dollars from over 63,000 backers. The OUYAis the world’s first open source game console, and runs on the JAVA programming language. It will be launched onto the market from 25 June 2013. 

Unlike most other computer or console manufacturers, the brains behind OUYA encourage people to “hack” their hardware. As such they do not void the warranty for rooting the unit and publicly encourage you to “open” the box and mess around.

The Specs for the OUYA are as follow;
  • NVIDIA Tegra3 Quad-Core Processor
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 8 GB of Internal Flash Storage
  • HDMI Connection with 1080p Support
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth LE 4.0
  • 1x USB 2.0
  • 1x Ethernet
Despite OUYA’s initial mixed reviews I am very excited about the pending release of this console, not so much for what it is but rather, what it represents. The console market has long been dominated by the three major players Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. The release of the OUYA looks set to change face of the market as one aspect of the OUYA is its open source operating system, which means individuals can do almost anything with it. An additional benefit is that OUYA’s makers do not require games to be licensed and are not charging for the Software Development Kits. This allows more developers to create games and apps for the OUYA.

The OUYA is a great example of the possibilities of how crowdfunding can benefit a startups, entrepreneurs, and  inventors. It is an exciting idea that resonates with people in a real way. With the release of the OUYA later this month the console market will undergo a radical change possibly losing its reputation of being as a closed market.

Image Credit; Karvan