Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fly your ideas – Open innovation the Airbus way

In my search for real-world manufacturing companies using social product development concepts, I found the Airbus Fly Your Ideas challenge. Let's analyze how this works:

Basic Approach
“Airbus Fly Your Ideas is a contest that challenges students worldwide to develop new ideas to deliver a greener aviation industry.” Students from around the world are asked to form teams and submit ideas on a pre-defined theme. In 2011, this theme is the “Environmental Life Cycle Approach”, i.e. an environment management system from design until end-of-life. The ideas are evaluated and filtered over 3 rounds before a final presentation at the Le Bourget Air Show in Paris in June 2011. This video introduces FYI 2001.

Social Product Development methods employed
Although the FYI challenge is accompanied by a Facebook page, this seems to be a rather traditional approach to open innovation. The ideas are submitted as a project proposal via an online form in round 1. A video about the team and the submission is to be uploaded in round 2. But the evaluation of the ideas is done by Airbus mentors and a jury, i.e. there is no open rating / ranking. This is probably due to the fact that the terms & conditions clearly state that Airbus owns the intellectual property on all ideas submitted.

Incentives for participants
The 5 finalist teams will be brought to the Le Bourget Air Show with a chance to win 30.000 EUR, 15.000 EUR for the runners up team. The FAQ lists the following additional incentives for the participants:
  • Interaction with and coaching from Airbus employees
  • The chance to develop their teamwork skills
  • The opportunity to enhance creativity and innovation skills
  • The chance to improve their project development & presentation skills
  • Working with other nationalities
  • Learning more about Airbus and the aviation industry
  • Feedback on their ideas from industry experts

Benefits for the company
For FYI 2011, over 2.600 students from 75 countries have registered, i.e. over 300 teams completed round 1. The FYI 2009 resulted into similar impressive numbers.
  • Innovation: Airbus owns the intellectual property and is actively seeking for diverse teams with technical and business backgrounds.
  • Positioning: by providing a theme, Airbus focuses the results around topics such as environment, eco-efficiency and sustainability – and positions itself in the center of these topics.
  • Recruiting: the FYI challenge is open to students – and only to students. Despite the FAQ saying “it is not part of the company’s recruitment process or a vehicle to recruitment”, Rachel Schroeder as the head of Airbus employment marketing sees it as an opportunity to connect with students and to get them involved.
To me, this looks like a very successful example of open innovation – with more focus on innovation then on open. What do you think?

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