InnoCentive is a Waltham, Massachusetts-based crowdsourcing company that accepts by commission research and development problems in engineering, computer science, math, chemistry, life sciences, physical sciences and business. The company frames these as “challenge problems” for anyone to solve. It gives cash awards for the best solutions to solvers who meet the challenge criteria.
The idea for InnoCentive came to Alpheus Bingham and Aaron Schacht in 1998 while they worked together at Eli Lilly and Companyduring a session that was focused on exploring application of the Internet to business. The company was launched in 2001 by Jill Panetta, Jeff Hensley, Darren Carroll and Alpheus Bingham, with majority seed funding from Eli Lilly and Company. Darren Carroll led the launch effort and became the first CEO.
In 2005, InnoCentive was spun out of Eli Lilly with investments led by Spencer Trask of New York. In December 2006, shortly after Dwayne Spradlin took the helm as CEO, the company signed an agreement with the Rockefeller Foundation to add a non-profit area designed to generate science and technology solutions to pressing problems in the developing world. Between 2006 and 2009, The Rockefeller Foundation posted 10 challenges on InnoCentive with an 80% success rate.
InnoCentive is a privately held, venture-backed firm headquartered near Boston in Waltham, Massachusetts, with a European office in London, UK. The company posts “Challenges” to its “Global Solver Community” in addition to internal Challenges—those targeted at private communities like employees, customers and suppliers.
InnoCentive’s solver community consists of over 355,000 people from nearly 200 countries,
As of January 2014, there was a total of 355,000 users from nearly 200 countries. Aside from traditional science PhDs, the user group includes technicians, students and engineers. More than 50% of registered solvers come from Russia, India, and China. Most of the problem solvers are well-educated, with a majority (65.8%) holding a PhD. InnoCentive has also signed agreements with the Chinese and Russian national science academies. As motivation for Russian universities, for example, a solver’s academic department can get 10% of any award.