Haas Helps Expand Open Innovation Opportunities

It's not often that a student or novice entrepreneur has a risk-free chance at winning $1 million in services and support for a great idea. Nor is it common for an undergraduate to have the chance to pitch a business plan to senior corporate executives.

The Haas School's Center for Open Innovation and Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation are involved in two programs that offer just those opportunities over the next two months: a Million Dollar Open Innovation Challenge and an a competition in the Open Innovation and Business Models undergraduate course.

Both opportunities, though quite different, focus on the practice of open innovation. The business strategy, developed by Haas Adjunct Professor and alumnus Henry Chesbrough, PhD 97, asserts that firms should use external ideas in their businesses and allow their own ideas to be used by others in their businesses.

Million Dollar Open Innovation Challenge

The Million Dollar Open Innovation Challenge is sponsored by Zazzle, an online retailer that allows users to upload images and create their own merchandise, in association with faculty members from Berkeley-Haas and MIT. Entrants are asked to create a one-minute video demonstrating "an innovative concept for a new customizable product." They are directed to "create a system that enables your customers to design exactly what they want."

Zazzle will invest $1 million in technology and services as it helps the winners build online configuration tools, develop a marketing plan, and launch the business on the Zazzle platform.

The challenge is an outgrowth of the 2011 World Conference on Mass Customization, Personalization, and Co-Creation (MCPC): Bridging Mass Customization and Open Innovation. Held in mid-November, the conference was co-sponsored by Haas, MIT, RWTH Aachen University, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

"Most successful conferences end and people simply go home," says Solomon Darwin, associate director of the Center for Open Innovation. "I suggested why not do a post-event so people can keep the fire burning."

Teaming with Zazzle, he says, makes sense because Zazzle wants to be a leader in mass customization, a business strategy closely linked and complementary to open innovation. The contest is open to any young entrepreneur, but Darwin expects many Haas students to participate. Information on the competition is available at zazzle.com/challenge.

Open Innovation and Business Models Class Competition

Meanwhile, Darwin is once again challenging his own students to develop a new business plan based on open innovation principles for client firms as the culmination of his course Open Innovation and Business Models. The contest, held for the first time last year, is the final exam for the course, which is open to only 25 students selected by Darwin.

Working in teams of five, students present their proposals to a panel of judges – senior executives from client firms who in some cases are flying in from other parts of the country for the presentations. This year, the participating companies are United HealthCare, McKesson, Johnson & Johnson, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard.

United HealthCare, a repeat client, was so impressed with students' proposals last year that the company plans to fly students to the company's Minnesota headquarters next year so that they can make their presentation in person to high-level decision-makers, Solomon says. Last year's winning team proposed United HealthCare could engage diabetic and pre-diabetic patients in their own care with two open innovation partnerships: one with Nike to provide running shoes that monitor calories burned, heart rate, and other metrics and the other with Dole to encourage patients to buy a line of sugarless foods.

Anthony Ayala, BS 12, who was admitted into Haas this fall, sees the class as a "mini-consulting experience," and says the requirement that he work closely with and be accountable to his teammates is challenging and different than the usual academic routine.

Deepika Kumar, BA 12 (Molecular and Cell Biology), who plans to go to medical school, says the open innovation course is the "perfect opportunity for me to explore my entrepreneurial side." She hopes to eventually start an innovative health care company.