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Innovation Insights

13 December 2010 #Environment

General Electric has recently announced over $50m dollars of investment into crowd-sourced ideas for its Ecomagination challenge.   

Each of these ideas was in the smart grids sector - demand-side electricity management technologies.  The winners of these investments will also get access to GE`s engineering and sales departments to help fast track their ideas into the mainstream.  Similarly, websites such as Innocentive  and Myoo Create offer companies crowd sourcing for innovation.  Crowd-sourcing is gaining appreciation amongst decision makers and enables ideas from the remotest corners of the world.  

Another angle is crowd-funding - whereby a large group of disparate people each contribute a small amount.  This method has, for a while, been used by bands that need to pay studio costs, asking their fans to contribute for the next album.  Perhaps it will not be long before entrepreneurs are using crowd funding techniques to start their businesses.  There are wider applications to crowd-funding too, and this technique fits in well with the Big Society idea of the Conservatives.   

£200m for Innovation Centres 

The Prime Minister and the Business Secretary recently announced that a network of innovation centres would receive £200m funding a year to help British companies develop new products and move into emerging sectors as a world leader. 

Vince Cable said "High-tech industries are the future of the British economy. Growing sectors that exploit these new and emerging technologies will help re-balance the economy and provide the highly skilled, well-paid jobs we need."     

Innovations do not always represent high technology    

For instance, in South Africa and Eritrea there are trials of water harvesting through the use of fog-nets.  These nets are set up to capture the fog that blows in from the Indian Ocean and condense the water vapour into pure drinking and irrigation water.  At a project in South Africa up to 2,500 litres per day of water can be captured, enough drinking water for a local school with spare capacity for vegetable plots. 

Indeed Time recently highlighted some their favourite inventions of 2010.  One of the highest rated was a natal incubator powered by car parts.  This low-tech incubator can be deployed at low cost anywhere in the world, with maintenance performed by a car mechanic rather than specialist engineers.

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