General Electric and Open Innovation

I recently did some research into how General Electric has been using contests (they call them challenges and quests) as part of their Open Innovation portfolio.  I came away impressed with their use of ‘challenges’ and ‘quests’ in order to crowdsource ideas and technology solution for real business problems.

The way I define  Open Innovation is that you are open if you incorporate both internal and external input into your idea/brainstorming processes.   But there is another part of open that is important and that is you share your innovations back to the community in order to 1) get feedback and 2) help others innovate.

GE caught my eye as it recent launched two 3d Printing/Additive Manufacturing ‘quests’.  See the summary of that quest below.  Additive manufacturing is a key part of the advanced manufacturing revolution and is an area I have done a bunch of research on this year, so my radar was up. 

But my post here is not about 3D Printing but in summarizing for you examples of how G.E. has used open innovation over the years.  The list below is not meant to be an exhaustive list.  I am sure there are others not on the list here.  However, you get a feel for the type of focus G.E. has on open innovation, which is impressive.  

Example Projects in 2013

Project:  GE Opens Thousands of Patents to Garage Inventors from the Quirky Community
About:  A new partnership between GE and Quirky that will allow everyone to participate in the development of new products.  The partnership will consist of two parts: a new platform where GE will open thousands of its most promising patents and new technologies to the Quirky community for the development of new consumer products; and a co-branded product development initiative to build a full line of app-enabled connected devices for the home in areas such as health, security, water, or air that will be developed using advanced manufacturing tools and technologies. This new line of products will be co-branded Wink: Instantly Connected.
Press Release:
GE’s page on Quirky:
See more at

Innovation Challenge:  Head Health Challenge
URL:   More info at
About:  GE and the National Football League’s Head Health Challenge I aims to develop new solutions to help diagnose mild traumatic brain injury and invites proposals for scanning technologies and biomarkers that can accelerate growth.  Proposals are currently being accepted for Challenge I: Methods for Diagnosis and Prognosis of Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries.  Multiple awards are available for winning proposals (See  )
Press Release:
G.E. Partners:  NFL, Under Armour, NineSigma/NineSights
Dates: Challenge 1 Dates:  March – July 15, 2013  /  Challenge 2 Dates: Oct 2013 – Feb 2014
Stats as of July 15, 2013:  Forums:  42 Discussions.

Open Engineering Quest:   Additive Manufacturing / 3D Printing
URL:  and fact sheet at
About:  Two additive manufacturing quests that invite entrepreneurs, companies and institutions to offer their solutions to two additive manufacturing challenges: 3D Printing Design Quest and 3D Printing Production Quest: High Precision and Advanced Materials.
Press Release:
G.E. Partners:  GrabCAD and NineSigma
Challenge 1:   3D Printing Design Quest – Redesign the Aircraft Engine Bracket
Challenge 1 Dates:   Phase 1 – June,11, 2013 – July 26, 2013  /  Phase 2 – August 15 – November 15
Challenge 2:   High Precision and Advanced Materials – Prove Your Production Capabilities
Challenge 2 Dates:  Phase 1 – June,11, 2013 – July 26, 2013  /  Phase 2 – Oct 1, 2013 – January 8, 2014

Challenge:   Hospital Quest
Challenge Dates:  November 29, 2012 – December 21, 2012.  Winners announced March 2013
About:  Challenge explored ideas for how to create a better experience for both hospital patients and their caregivers, identifying opportunities that could be addressed by apps. Entries encouraged in any and every part of the hospital experience, including pre-admission, interaction with hospital on scheduling, lab work, in-patient experience and discharge practice.  For the Hospital Quest, the winners will receive a total prize pool of $100,000 from GE.
Press Release:
G.E. Partners:  Kaggle
Phase 1 Winners:
Stats as of July 2013:    Ideas:  222   Forum Discussions:  39 Topics/125 Posts/40,000+ Views

Challenge:   Flight Quest
Challenge Dates:  November 29, 2012 – March 11, 2013. 
About:  Challenge explored ideas for how to develop a usable and scalable algorithm that delivers a real-time flight profile to the pilot, helping them make flights more efficient and reliably on time.  Submitters were given to large data sets (provided entrants with a set of two months of flight data, such as arrivals, departures, weather, and latitudes and longitudes along the way) and had to predict both the runway arrival time and the gate arrival time for each airplane.  The combined winners from two phases of Flight Quest will receive a total prize pool of $500,000 from GE.
Press Release:
G.E. Partners:  Alaska Airlines, Kaggle, FlightStats, Inc.
Phase 1 Winners:   Also see Technology Review article:
Stats as of July 2013:  Teams:  179  /  Ideas:  3,073  /   Forum Discussions:  155 Topics/684 Posts/60,000+ Views


Example Projects in 2012

ecomagination Challenge:   GE Australia & New Zealand Low Carbon Solutions and Technologies
Challenge Dates:  August 21 – 2012 – November 30, 2012
About:  An innovation experiment where businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators and students share their best ideas on how to reduce carbon emissions.
Press Release:
G.E. Partners:  Cleantech Ventures, CVC Limited, Greenhouse Cleantech, MH Carnegie & Co and Southern Cross Venture Partners
Phase 1 Winners:  35 finalists announced at
Challenge Stats as of July 2013:   Ideas:  183  /  Comments:  713  /  Users:   85,431

ecomagination Challenge:  China
Challenge Dates:  Sept 2011 – April 2012
About:  The aim was to search for and bring to market gas-powered energy innovations to meet the country’s growing energy and environmental needs. The open innovation competition was the largest of its kind in China, garnering more than 200 submissions targeting participants from the public, private and national sectors.
Press Release:
G.E. Partners:  Baird Capital Partners Asia, CITIC Capital, Genertec Investment, Milestone Capital, Northern Light Venture Capital, Sequoia Capital and Shanghai Science and Technology Investment Corporation.
Phase 1 Winners:  The companies and individuals behind the first four winning ideas received $50,000 each in prize money. The fifth winner, who entered a non-gas power-related idea, received the ecomagination Challenge Campus Star Award, which included $2,000 in prize money along with an apprenticeship at the GE China Technology Center in Shanghai.

Example Projects in 2011

Challenge:   $100 million healthymagination challenge – Assembling Tools to Fight Cancer
Challenge Dates:  Sept 2011 – Nov 2011
About:  In September 2011, GE and partners launched a $100 million open innovation Challenge, which sought to identify and accelerate ideas that advance breast cancer early detection and diagnostics. Through a series of challenges, GE welcomed researchers, businesses, students and other innovators to submit breakthrough ideas for funding consideration. During phase one of the Challenge, which closed on November 20, 2011, nearly 4,000 people engaged on the Challenge portal, submitting over 500 ideas and leaving 170 comments.
Press Release:
G.E. Partners:  Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Beyers, Venrock Capital, Mohr Davidow, and MPM Capital
Phase 1 Winners:  From the Phase 1 submissions, five seed winners were selected by an independent judging panel and were awarded $100,000 each from GE to develop ideas relating to the diagnosis, treatment, and awareness of breast cancer
Stats as of July 2013:  Ideas:  514  / Comments:  15,165  /  Users: 7,352

Challenge:   GE’s ecomagination Challenge: Powering Your Home
Challenge Dates:  Entries Closed on March 15, 2011
About:  Powering Your Home was Phase II of the GE ecomagination Challenge, a $200 million innovation experiment where businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators and students shared their best ideas on how to improve our energy future. Phase II of the ecomagination Challenge focused on home energy with an open invitation for innovative ideas about capturing, managing, and using energy in the home.
Press Release:
G.E. Partners:  Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, KPCB and Rockport Capital
Phase 1 Winners:
Challenge Stats as of July 2013:   Ideas:  931  /  Comments:  10,000+  /  Users: 70,000


Example Projects in 2010

Challenge:  GE’s Ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid
Challenge Dates:  July 13, 2010 and September 30, 2010.
About:  GE’s Ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid is an open call to action for businesses,
entrepreneurs, innovators and students seeking breakthrough ideas to create a cleaner, more efficient and economically viable grid, and accelerate the adoption of smart grid technologies.  The Challenge invites people to come together to take on one of the world’s toughest challenges – building the next-generation power grid to meet the needs of the 21st century.
Press Release:
G.E. Partners:  RockPort Capital, KPCB , Foundation Capital, and Emerald Technology Ventures and with Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, Wiredmagazine
Phase 1 Winners:
Challenge Stats as of July 2013:  Ideas:  3908  /  Comments:  80,421 /  Users:  85,431