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Sourcing innovation from the crowd


Crowdsourcing is a word often associated with start-ups. It is the process through which fledgling businesses seek to raise funding or investment from individuals across the world using the internet.


Rather than searching for investment, many procurement functions are beginning to use the same process to try and find innovative solutions to the challenges their businesses face.

So, how does it work?


Procurement is using online platforms to post problems and inviting submissions from both large and small businesses , as well as individuals, research institutes and academics.


When the function posts a challenge it details the issue at hand and the specific requirements it is working to. All an organisation or individual has to do is register and send in their ideas, which are then considered and analysed by procurement.


Rather than narrowing its options to its supply base or research and developement team, procurement is able to connect to hundreds and thousands of potential solutions and suppliers in a cost-effective and timely fashion.


For some, it is already a work in progress.


In April, Amazon Web Services and healthcare company Merck announced the launch of a crowdsourcing contest called The Alexa Diabetes Challenge. The contest aims to incentivise developers to create apps for patients recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes that harness Amazon’s Alexa voice-enabled technologies. It has been reported that Penn Medicine and Commonwealth Care Alliance are already running proof-of-concept or pilot programmes.


Meanwhile, in 2016, North American dairy business Agropur Cooperative launched the Inno Challenge to find "new innovations that expand, sustain and reinvigorate the use of dairy products and elevate dairy beyond a household staple".


Three of those who submitted an idea have since been chosen and are working with the dairy supplier on a weekly basis to develop their concepts and bring them to the prototype stage. On 31 May and 1 June 2017, they will present their prototypes at the Agropur Inno Expo.


Crowdsourcing certainly has its place and for functions that are perhaps not as mature as others or have a smaller supply base, this could be the solution to help accelerate their search for value opportunities.


This article is a piece of independent writing by a member of Procurement Leaders’ content team.

Rachel Sharp
Posted by Rachel Sharp