5 Basic Questions You Should Ask a Crowdsourcing Platform

Every time we meet with a company interested in using our crowdsourcing platform, we receive a lot of questions. When we started up the business, and open innovation was not as popular, we were usually asked how could a person from Australia or Ukraine give a solution to a challenge located at the other side of the world. Today, as companies professionalize their innovation areas and look for more efficient innovation tools, questions are very different: What challenges are solved and what the success rate is, how long it takes for a challenge to be solved, how detailed the solutions are, how the IP rights work, etc. Here are some of the basic questions we have been asked and our answers, based on our crowdsourcing model.

Question #1: Who are the members of your community?

Every crowdsourcing platform has its own identity, which is generally given by the nature of the community. Looking at our ranking, we can see that ennomotive's community hosts mainly engineers, physics and other technical professionals with interdisciplinary skills who come from many countries and industrial sectors. These solvers have experience in technical challenge-solving in different industries, they already have some the training that comes with the engineering profession. This 'applied engineering', 'global', and 'cross-industry' sense is one of ennomotive's key factors. As a consequence, the proposed solutions to a given challenge are creative and viable since they have both a technical and economic foundation.

Question #2: What kinds of challenges are solved and what is the success rate?

The diversity of the community is directly linked to the kind of challenges. Therefore, our platform solves technological challenges from companies that look for viable solutions to complex challenges. A company posts a challenge at ennomotive usually because its innovation teams cannot find a market solution or simply because its cost is too high. Although you can read more about our experience here, at ennomotive we solve different kinds of challenges related to areas such as mechanical, electric, electronic, and materials engineering. The issues are diverse, however, there is a tendency towards challenges related to Industry 4.0 (IIoT industrial sensorization, automation, and robotics, additive manufacturing, etc.)  and sustainability (water, waste reduction, etc.). Depending on the challenge and the community, the success rate will be greater or lower. If the challenges are well-described and the platform is the correct one, success is usually guaranteed. In our case, we solved 8 out of 10 challenges last year. When a challenge is deemed unsuccessful is because the set goal for the cost has not been reached (maybe it was too ambitious) or because it is more of a research matter and not an innovation challenge.

Question #3: What are the benefits of using your crowdsourcing model?

As we stated in the article 5 Rules for an Efficient Innovation Crowdsourcing,  crowdsourcing does not replace outsourcing but broadens the creative and solving capacity of the company. In practice, this happens when innovation teams get several inputs from the crowd. Consequently, the solving capacity increase translates into better and faster innovation As an example, in one of our success cases, our client compared the efficiency of using our platform versus only using their internal resources for the same project. Its conclusion was that the project was completed 3 times faster and the cost was reduced by 40%.

Question #4: How is confidentiality handled?

Evidently, if you want to do open innovation, you have to share some of your information with people outside your company. However, this does not mean that this information is going to be completely public like a Social Media post. In fact, it works similarly to a RFI/P, in which you work with several suppliers. A crowdsourcing platform must have mechanisms to handle the required level of information exposure. At ennomotive, we have tools to limit or segment that exposure. For instance, by launching private challenges only visible for one type of solver or one country or region. In addition, our challenges let you control who, when, and what information is shared, avoiding the disclosure of sensitive data.

Questions #5: Who owns the IP rights of the solutions?

IP rights is a very important question. The platform is used to attract knowledge from outside the company and, in our case, to turn it into technological solutions. Companies that post challenges on a platform typically offer a reward in exchange for creative solutions that work. The reward is usually a cash prize but it is also common to share potential patent benefits. As it happens in a regular contest, the challenge participants submit solutions to be evaluated and awarded. In our case, the IP rights of submissions belong to the participants until they get rewarded. It is at that moment when the usage or IP rights are transferred to the company according to the challenge's terms and conditions. Crowdsourcing platforms need to prove they have experience in originality checking, IP rights transfer, and patent registering. We also recommend reading this article about How to Select the Right Open Innovation Platform, where we give some criteria and share examples to help you make such an important decision.