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Crowdsourcing to accelerate development of Innovative and disruptive technologies and Military innovation

Innovation crowdsourcing is a business practice that engages the crowds with the goal of generating ideas and co-creating solutions within an end-to-end innovation process. This practice does not actually outsource innovation activities but connects teams with multiple knowledge sources to deliver better innovation results. The crowd can consist of employees, partners, researchers, suppliers, customers, and experts from all over the world. You can set up specific communities or remove all boundaries and limitations for completely open innovation.


Crowdsourcing relies on a simple, yet powerful idea: the more people who put to work on solving a problem, the better the chances of a positive outcome and an innovative solution. Traditionally, businesses have held their cards close to their chest and remained hesitant to share or discuss their projects. While there might have been a time when this approach worked to keep competition at bay, in our modern business world, working in isolation actually makes businesses more vulnerable to be left behind as innovation moves at an ever-quickening pace.


By harnessing the collective creativity of the crowd, you can exponentially increase the number of solutions that are submitted in response to a certain challenge. More ideas mean a better chance of bringing something truly innovative to the surface. Crowdsourcing for innovation also creates a space for unique collaborations and meetings of the mind that might not occur otherwise. These connections, among experts, customers, employees and crowd members from all over the world, allow innovation to be placed at the forefront. Crowdsourcing represents the future of innovation, ideation and collaboration. Innovation challenges are today a key strategy to achieve operational excellence and develop different products or services.  An increasing number of corporations are using open innovation to find or develop new technologies through engineering crowdsourcing.


China solicits public opinion on research directions for disruptive technologies in Aug 2021

China’s Ministry of Science and Technology has started to solicit public opinion on the research directions of disruptive technologies in order to improve the nation’s ability to make prospective plans for major scientific and technological innovations.  Disruptive technology is an important breakthrough for scientific and technological innovations which have revolutionary significance in terms of reshaping the lives of all people, industrial production and commercial consumption.


The solicitation will target the major scientific and technological demands of high-quality economic and social development and highlight the breakthroughs, industrial transformation and huge market potential of disruptive technologies. It will focus on the collection of disruptive technologies that may produce major breakthroughs in the future, and those that can bring industrial upgrades, or have huge market potential.


A batch of talents and teams of innovative personnel who can practice innovations of disruptive technologies will be discovered and supported to cultivate an innovative culture.


Military Innovation through crowdsourcing

Innovation has always been a factor of military thinking to one degree or another, however, in recent years it has been gathering momentum again. With increasingly complex operational environments, commanders are becoming more aware of the importance of innovative thinking. The current focus of military innovation is heavily macro-focused, everyone wants to find a game-changing way of fighting battles or a new strategy to win wars. We look at groundbreaking equipment and new ways of working with our strategic partners. All of this is vitally important to our profession of arms. However many times ‘ organizational lag’ or collective inefficiencies in our processes inhibit both the delivery and the effectiveness of our command-led macro-innovation ideas.


This means that we must look to a bottom-up approach to solving the problem of organizational lag, this runs counter to the traditional top-down hierarchical military approach. Often these micro-innovations are relatively easy to implement compared to the command lead macro-innovation projects. With rapid turnaround, successive micro-innovations can result in a significant reduction to overall organisational lag within a unit/organisation. This can mean cost savings, a reduced admin burden, increased time for training, fewer injured soldiers, higher moral and a more effective unit.


This concept of crowd-sourcing micro-innovation is already in play with several militaries, however, possibly the best exemplar is the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) PRoductivity and Innovation in Daily Efforts (PRIDE) program. This program has seen significant savings in both time and money for SAF working with the mantra of “small ideas, big difference”.


Crowdsourcing in DOD

From the 1950’s to the 1970’s, U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) research and development represented the majority of innovation investment, eventually leading to technologies such as the internet, GPS, and early artificial intelligence.  Today, the DoD, with its bureaucratic acquisitions system, finds itself unable to keep pace with commercial innovation, consistently delivering programs that are late, over budget, and often obsolete.


Worried by it’s narrowing military lead over the adversaries like Russia and China, DOD has devised many strategies to spur innovation such as doing business with companies that don’t usually work with the military, inspire creative thinking inside and outside the Defense Department, strengthening its collaboration with tech firms, entrepreneurs, and start-ups and crowdsourcing.


ONR had launched an initiative , the Concept Challenge,  under which the organization was asking literally anyone who believes they have an idea for a technology that could help the Navy and Marine Corps deter conflict and win wars to submit one-page summaries for possible adoption into ONR’s research portfolio. Rear Adm. David Hahn,  head ONR said the criteria for the challenge is broad, by design: candidates could include anything from a brand new technology the Navy has not yet examined to new ways of combining existing systems that fit into future war fighting concepts.


Crowdsourcing platform to design the next generation combat vehicle

In 2010, while seeking to overcome these challenges and reduce development time by a factor of 5, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), created a crowdsourcing platform to design the next generation combat vehicle.


Given the shortcomings of current models and emerging international threats, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps are in need of a new Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV). The current vehicles in service were the result of lengthy and costly design processes – the current IFV began development in 1963 and was not completed until the 1980’s.


Named as the Fast Adaptable Next-Generation Ground Vehicle (FANG) Challenge, this competition also allowed DARPA to test its collaborative design platform (VehicleFORGE) and software design and testing tool (META), which it hoped to employ across the industry In an effort to accelerate development and access talent beyond the traditional defense industry, DARPA launched a crowdsourcing competition with staged, prize-based challenges to progressively design vehicle subsystems and eventually a full IFV.

DARPA was able to avoid the British Navy’s mishap with crowdsourcing in which the public voted to name a ship “Boaty McBoatface,” for several reasons. First, the technical complexity of submitting an entry served as a filter for non-serious participants and vandals. Second, DARPA managed the crowd by putting all design and collaboration on vehicleforge.mil and required the use of its META design software. In doing so, participants had easy access to design specifications and standardized design tools. Finally, DARPA maintained final approval authority with no obligation to build the winning design.


Crowdsourcing  Bio-hazard suit

The United States military needs the crowd’s help to come up with a new chemical and biological agent-resistant suit. The problem with current bio-hazard suits is that they are heavy and bulky which restricts a person’s maneuverability and range of motions when they are performing their duties. The $250,000 prize  open innovation contest sought novel ideas that specifically increase a person’s mobility, dexterity and tactility when wearing a suit. The military is also looking for heat management ideas that will cool a person and lessen the heat burden when they are wearing a suit.

The submitted concepts were judged by a panel of experts in chemical-biological defense, materials engineering, and textile technology. The evaluation criteria was:

Functionality – does the suit offer increased mobility and does it integrate easily with warfighter equipment?

Innovation – is the idea different from current design? Is it an ‘out-of-the-box’ approach?

Reduced burden – can it be mass produced? Is it sustainable under various conditions, such as heat and a biological risk environment?

Ease of use – is the suit comfortable, simple and intuitive?

Feasibility and practicality – is there a reduced manufacturing burden? Can the suit be more easily packed and transported compared to the current solution?


Operational Challenges Crowdsourcing Initiative

The Operational Challenges Crowdsourcing Initiative was launched  to inspire creative thinking inside and outside the Defense Department on key operational challenges has produced two primary submissions and several others that will be presented for consideration directly to top officials in the department.

“We knew that there was a lot of creativity and experience out there amongst operators, academics, technologists, researchers and others that wasn’t being drawn upon because there’s not really a mechanism for [getting] their ideas directly to senior leaders inside the Pentagon,” Mara E. Karlin, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development said.

The project was intended to provide that access, she added, to take the best ideas, wherever they came from, and connect the ideas to leaders who are in a position to effect change. “We pulled these together based on our thinking about the challenges the U.S. military will face as we look to future conflicts — the things that worry us — and we posed five questions,” she said.

The questions were as follows:

1. How can the U.S. military more effectively and efficiently project power in the face of massed or mobile precision attacks — for example, cruise and ballistic missile salvos and swarming?

2. Given current U.S. global military posture and potential changes in the character of war, how must future U.S. operational battle networks change to accomplish counter-power projection operations in contested theaters against large state adversaries?

3. How must joint force operational and organizational constructs change to allow combat operations involving multi-domain battle against adversaries with battle network/guided munitions parity?

4. How must joint force operational and organizational constructs change as adversaries exploit crowdsourced information and commercially available intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies such as drones and commercial space systems?

5. How can the U.S. military ensure that the speed of its decision-making continues to keep pace with the accelerating speed of action on the battlefield due to automation, artificial intelligence, hypersonics, cyber weapons and other factors?


One proposal was developed by two researchers at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment. Timothy A. Walton and Ryan Boone proposed specific changes in posture and investment priorities that could improve the U.S. military’s ability to conduct sustained operations in the Asia Pacific.


“This fell into that first operational challenge, Karlin said, adding, “At the strategic level we say the U.S. military must be able to project power and win decisively, must be able to go anywhere, be anywhere at any time, and their proposal very much focused on that as they were thinking about logistics throughout the Asia-Pacific [region] The second proposal, by Army Maj. Christopher M. Baldwin and Army Capt. Nicholas W. Cimler, was for an innovative operational concept for amphibious assault.


“What was neat about theirs is that they were thinking about how you modernize amphibious assault, how you project combat power over the shore, and they were thinking about autonomy and how we can use it smartly … particularly as we think through denied or degraded environments,” Karlin said. “Using autonomy for logistics makes a lot of sense and … what’s particularly interesting about that is it doesn’t just have an operational impact, it can influence how you think strategically about a challenge,” she added. This proposal straddled the first and second operational challenges, projecting power and thinking about future operational battle networks because logistics is such a key node in battle networks, Karlin said.


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