An ebay of idea to answer to R&D outsourcing

Outsourcing research and development seems to be a new trend, as attested by this article in Der Spiegel. It's about small businesses and major corporations which use the Internet to advertise monetary awards for inventions. They call this concept "innocentive", the name is a fusion of the words innovation and incentive.

The business principle behind the company's idea exchange is quite simple. A company has a problem it wants to solve, but its own R&D department is unable to develop a solution on its own. So the company describes the problem it wants solved -- using a few sentences, formulas or graphics -- posts it on Innocentive's Web site and names a sum it's willing to pay for the invention. (...) Some 80,000 inventors have already tried their hand at solving the various problems posted on Innocentive. The rules are straightforward: Whoever produces the best solution gets the money, while everyone else gets nothing. The Web site charges the companies a fee to post their questions. In return, they remain anonymous, in order to protect company secrets.

Still, there are some drawbacks:

"Some full-time researchers, apparently worried about losing their own jobs, are intentionally flooding online innovation marketplaces with unsolvable problems, in order to frustrate their competitors on the Internet." Furthermore, the rigid contract policies are also the source of disgruntlement. Says freelance researcher Hügin: "It's difficult to get accustomed to the idea of giving up all intellectual property rights to an anonymous company, as is often the case."

Why do I blog this? I think freelance research is starting to be a new mode (judging on companies new way of managing innovation/R&D). Innocentive seems to be an interesting model (very web2.0).

Update: what is impressive is this banner (on the innoventive project page), about how to find your lab gear...