A triumph of Open Innovation

Ideas In Transit

It was great to spend the day with my colleagues, beneficiaries and sponsors of the highly successful Ideas In Transit project – A project that studied, encouraged and funded innovations in transport developed from the “bottom-up” by users.

5 years of effort against a deliberately woolly scope was a leap of faith for the sponsoring TSB, EPRSC and DfT. Certainly it would have been easier to just give the money to a large system integrator company to make another hopeless on-line application for catching trains. Some would have said safer too. But how would such a predictable “top-down” approach have dealt with the almost instant emergence of the disruptive technologies that arose within weeks of the project inception? The iPhone, the App store and the catch-up rivals at Google completely changed the landscape to favour the target groups.

Because the project scope accepted that there were big unknowns “out there” we designed the project to observe this changing use of technology, now in the user’s hands, and how it influenced behaviour. This helped define the most effective interventions that could be made to support the “little-guy” innovators.

Combining with Ordnance Surveys moves to more social innovations, their first Open API (Open Space – another of my projects… it was a busy time ;-)), and the Governments insistence upon Open Data from OS the concept of GeoVation was born. A process of camps, facilitated and mentored business plan bullet-proofing sessions and the inevitable x-factor judgements yielded 10 great new businesses. Those from the transport challenge we saw how

  • Mission Explore increased kids’ engagement in their environment and use of the national cycle network by offering adventurous challenges unique to each location.
  • FixMyTransport developed an app that made childs play out of reporting deficiencies in any part of the travel infrastructure
  • myPTP is a colossal aggregation of all the key data services to make an information tool that encourages better choices on our regular commutes
  • CycleScape that appears to harness the inner monster within each of us cyclists by providing a common platform for campaigning.
  • Access advisor finds the optimal journey for the disabled and
  • Sustaination creates a food enterprise network based around a dating site for food businesses (those that grow, those that sell and those that transport).

Most of these ideas tap into that spare mental capacity that people now appear to have for reporting, capturing data and socialising on the net. None of these ideas would come from a collective of agencies and large commercial companies and logistics experts. The essential ingredient in each is a heavy dose of passion which the presenters had in spades during their 5 minute pitches.

So what do the sponsors get from this project? A nice set of references? a very nifty logo and brand name (… you guessed it…again one of mine ;-))? No. What this project has equipped our sponsors with is a PROCESS. Tried and trusted, developed over years, refined from previous initiatives and now responsible for the new businesses returning honest tax money to Vince Cable.

Ideas in transit is an extendbale set of interventions; creative problem solving methods proven to work.  This can be standardised, grown, franchised and exported.

Thank you Ideas In Transit; this is surely a sustainable outcome we can all be proud of… but more importantly take advantage of to survive the next big disruptions.

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2 thoughts on “A triumph of Open Innovation

    1. Nice article too Tim! I put it out on the twitter feed and totally agree! If all our government departments stick to their knitting we’ll never get the essential cross fertilisation. It appears the by recruiting the “user” as the innovator they more readily see the opportunities to build “useful” applications and have the passion to put this into practice. GeoVation and Ideas In Transit allow this to happen.

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