Automotive maker Ford Motor Co. is the latest company to set aside a bias toward “not invented here” ideas with the creation of several programs intended to support inventors and entrepreneurs that don’t happen to work on its payroll.
The programs include a concept called the Motor City Innovation Exchange, which is a collaboration between Ford, the TechShop Detroit (a workshop and fabrication studio where inventors can work on ideas); the AutoHarvest Foundation (a non-profit group designed to help provide connections between entrepreneurs and the automotive industry); and TechTown (a business incubator associated with Wayne State University).
Here’s the idea;
The Innovation Exchange is being structured as a way for people working in TechShop Detroit to bring their ideas to the attention of potential investors or partners within the automotive industry. It is a physical extension of the AutoHarvest Foundation that will be physically located in the TechShop Detroit facilities. TechTown instructors will be available at the exchange in order to help business support and guidance.
“Innovation Exchange is all about helping to spread the word about the innovation happening both inside and outside of TechShop, and giving the creators the foundational resources they need to understand how to sell and commercialize their idea and connect with the right players while respecting their intellectual property,” said William Coughlin, the CEO of Ford Global Technologies, the Ford division that manages its patent portfolio, in a statement.
Certain TechShop members may also benefit from a Ford-backed program that provides discounted rental fees for facilities within the Ford Land buildings in nearby Allen Park and Dearborn.
As I was reading the Innovation Exchange materials, I couldn’t help but think about the various companies that have sprung up over the past several years to help inventors bring projects to market, including KickStarter.
My colleague Joe McKendrick wrote an insightful piece about corporate crowdsourcing in mid-May, and Ford isn’t alone with a program like this. The big difference between the efforts that McKendrick wrote about and the Ford program, however, is that all of the companies he mentions were looking internally for new ideas. Ford is doing that too, but Innovation Exchange is helping the company seek and evaluate new ideas “wherever we can find them.”
What Ford does with those ideas is another matter entirely. Here’s hoping that it can move quickly enough to make this program worthwhile.
(Thumbnail image courtesy of Stock.xchng)