Since 2001, InnoCentive has operated a website on which research-based companies can pose scientific problems to be solved by researchers around the world (C&EN, June 26, 2006, page 24). With the foundation's involvement, the site is now expanding to include nonprofit organizations and technological challenges faced by the developing world.
"The Rockefeller Foundation challenges are going to be new and exciting additions to our usual challenge set," says Dwayne Spradlin, InnoCentive's president and CEO.
Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, adds that the agreement with InnoCentive "will enable researchers and entrepreneurs addressing the needs of the developing world to access one of the same cutting-edge opportunities to innovate now enjoyed by Fortune 500 companies." The partnership is the first step in a broader Rockefeller Foundation initiative to promote innovation and spur development on behalf of poor or vulnerable populations.
The 94-year-old private foundation will select nonprofit and other charitable organizations eligible to use the InnoCentive website. It will recruit and screen these "seeker" organizations through a new area on its own website that includes an online questionnaire. On behalf of sponsored seekers, the foundation will pay access, posting, and service fees to InnoCentive, as well as the awards to researchers who solve the posted problems.
InnoCentive's scientific operations group will work with the foundation and seeker organizations to define and articulate solvable problems and set award amounts. The nonprofit seekers, like InnoCentive's corporate clients, will choose the best solution to their problems.
"Our platform is agile, and we're open to new and evolving ways of adapting InnoCentive," says Ali Hussein, InnoCentive's chief marketing officer and vice president of global markets. Late last year, Prize4Life, a nonprofit group based in Cambridge, Mass., used InnoCentive to offer a $1 million prize for the successful identification of a biomarker for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.