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Innovation Bricks to Build a Sustainable Future

Most of the world's grand challenges require a non-traditional approach to solving them, they require platform thinking as a common good.

Photo of Bodo Hoenen
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

We are developing a Giant Lab for open innovation towards solving our global challenges. Please see our visual description of the project here: The story of the project idea: ►Most of the world's grand challenges require a non-traditional approach to solving them, they require platform thinking as a common good (See slide 4). ►Open movements, like open source software, have shown us a powerful approach, Modules of code are available to be used as bricks within other projects, a business could quickly stack multiple open bricks together and build a working base solution and then focus on their own unique innovation. This rapidly increases software innovation and propagates new code quickly. ► Consider we build an ecosystem where just like in open source software, bricks of innovation can be built, shared, and recombined with others. In this case, these bricks would be far broader in scope. Projects in this ecosystem would share modules of what they are doing, like their business model, their technology, their goto market strategy... Through collective intelligence and mutualized innovation, these modules are utilized, adapted and continually improved, allowing projects to focus on unique efforts. ► Open Social Innovation allows the community to leverage work done by others and reduces time/effort spent reinventing the wheel. It focuses on new innovation, implementation or scaling good ideas, while at the same time empowering the development of valuable businesses. ► This project is about developing this ecosystem. We have tested out the approach within educational programs, open science and cancer research, and have taken part in similar efforts within synthetic biology (the iGEM), where open Bio Bricks are developed and shared. ► Now, together with research labs, schools and Universities, we are creating this ecosystem and the beginning of an open library of innovation bricks geared towards solving grand challenges.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are Youth, researchers and innovators (15 to 35), starting with those in our network, that includes Ashoka, the Ashoka changemakers community and several universities (The CRI Paris, Geneva University, EPFL, the iSDG consortium, Tsinghua) that have challenge-based learning programs that are empowering students to develop frugal innovations to the sustainable development goals. These users will be the direct beneficiaries and will gain the ability to: — Easily connect and collaborate with other innovators — Find interesting innovation bricks, adapt, localize or improve them — learn from others, open data, solutions, and approaches — Attract funding, collaborators, and resources for their projects It will significantly increase the success and impact of existing projects and efforts while at the same time inspire and empower tens of thousands more innovators to contribute and start their own impactful ventures.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Many attempts at open innovation have stumbled. We have worked with many of them, researched successful models —like the iGEM: — and prototyped our own platform within open science and cancer research. We found that open systems need three fundamentals, that only recently became viable to develop. 1. A blanket, frictionless license. 2. An Interoperability framework where innovation modules become bricks that are easily shared, modified and recombined with others, 3. Intrinsic Incentives that reward sharing, while at the same time produce tangible value for contributors and the ability to develop sustainable businesses on one's openly shared innovation.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

This project ( ) is a partnership between Dev4X, JOGL, the CRI Paris and a consortium of univercities, labs, makerspaces and innovators.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.
  • Yes, we are a registered social enterprise.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

I've worked in open innovation for many years, developed many products and businesses around it but noticed so much more can still be done. On one of these projects, I was working to empower kids and noticed they love working on grand challenges and sharing knowledge. If we could build an ecosystem around these kids that allow them to do so, by 2030 they could fundamentally change the way the world innovates and solves grand challenges.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

The world is facing an unprecedented convergence of crises—environmental, economic and social. Needs are massive, urgent and universal. They are calling for a collective and dynamic response to empower everyone wishing to contribute to meeting these challenges. Traditional approaches waste time on problems common to many other similar projects and close off their work from many interested and passionate people wishing to make a difference. There is an upcoming generational mind-shift within our youth who wish to work on open solutions that generate real-world change for the betterment of all. Our global challenges can be met by empowering Youth to develop Open solutions to our grand challenges.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

We recently finished a Pilot with a pharmaceutical and open science institution. Here, they provided the context in which innovators and projects could come together share ideas, collaborate on work. They funded the pilot and we developed the technology and managed the Open Innovation. We now have an opportunity to work on an audacious global implementation together with several universities and foundations that fund social ventures. The universities all have project-based learning programs, where students develop solutions to the sustainable development goals openly, and the foundations are awarding grants to promising ventures. Here collaboration, sharing, interoperability and collective intelligence is what is looked at when awarding grants. We believe this next implementation will allow us to reach a critical mass of users and kickstart the innovation market that will drive the sustainability of the project.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

With backgrounds in Open innovation (Dev4X, JOGL), Open Science (JOGL, CRI) and Open Education (CRI, Dev4X), our consortium of partners share a deep appreciation of open approaches and the broad expertise of how this can be applied to solve grand challenges. Dev4X - Open Innovation approaches, interoperability. innovation market JOGL - Open Science, research, technology, AI, ML CRI - Global Credibility, Large Network (several partner universities, French government, UNESCO)

Geographic Focus

Our consortium and pilots are within the following regions: France, India, China and the USA.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

Our next big implimentation has the launch date of November 2018.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • Yes

If Yes, how has project idea changed, grown, or evolved since last year? (2,000 characters)

Last year we were still busy with our initial pilot and researching examples of successful open innovation systems like the iGEM (, where several members of the team have taken part in over the years. We had secured some initial funds and used that to conduct user research, and run various experiments, including one at the iSDG —which is now becoming a yearly program that will leverage our platform: This year, we are taking what we have learned to update our front end, from being focused towards cancer research to now become far more open and simplified so that any innovators can leverage the tools. We have secured an opportunity for a large-scale audacious implementation that is earmarked for the end of 2018 with the launch in early 2019. Our current effort is geared towards this goal.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Tyler Goodwin

Bodo Hoenen  , big ups for tacking a challenge as murky as evolving open innovation systems! It's obvious loads of thought have gone into your platform approach, and I like that you started building it around a concrete technical use-case (open science) that seems to match well with the 3 fundamentals you’ve described.

You mention you're now attempting to move beyond this and explore how to become more open and simplified — which I gather is about shaping the platform for open social innovation, to help solve SDGs through social ventures? I note you also mention the bricks of open social innovation will be far broader in scope, and wonder if you can share more about how this broadness might challenge the way you structure your platform’s fundamentals (e.g. require changes to the way submissions are peer reviewed, different incentives to reach those with the highest quality inputs, etc)?

My background is in developing new social ventures in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia alongside corporate and foundation innovation teams (3 with Unilever and 4 with BMGF’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge) — so I see a lot of challenges that may be unique to open social innovation, but also a lot of potential. Would be keen to participate (both as a user and in development). Let me know the best way to stay in touch!

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