I think we can all agree that the Internet has been a great benefit to society by combining people-power on global projects.

From free open source software to crowd funding sites like Kick starter to the redefining of “Encyclopedia” that Wikipedia has brought, our era is one that embraces openness and collaboration.

Open Innovation

Open innovation is the research and development application of these same principles.

Historically, companies would create huge divisions that closely guard the innovation they were researching. This made sense: if you were going to spend a lot of money coming up with the-next-big-thing, it was important to keep that innovation proprietary so another company couldn’t profit on your research.

Open innovation, on the other hand, is the belief that working together, companies can move forward faster. This means that the company can look outside of themselves for ideas about how and where to move forward.

It also means the company will acquire acquire patents or licensing processes from other companies. Others are taking advantage of unused intellectual property through licensing, joint ventures and spin-offs.

Some examples of open innovation from our new book, Innovation Strategy:

NineSigma

NineSigma was the first open innovation services provider helping client companies get the most from their innovation programs. Dr. Mehran Mehregany, of Case Western University, started NineSigma in 2000.

In 2008, NineSigma was one of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S. and ranked among the top 20 percent of companies on the Inc. 5000 list.

InnoCentive

InnoCentive sources R&D for biomedical and pharmaceutical companies by providing connection and relationship management services between “seekers” and “solvers.”

Seekers are companies searching for solutions to critical challenges. Solvers are the 185,000 registered members of the InnoCentive crowd that volunteer their solutions to the seekers.

Solvers, whose solutions are selected by the seekers, are compensated for their ideas by InnoCentive, which acts as broker.

Innovation

Innovation Exchange focuses on business problems related to product, service, process and business model innovation.

Companies sponsor challenges that are responded to by individuals, or people working in ad hoc teams.

Bright Idea makes social innovation management software that powers open innovation communities and contests.

Spigit

Spigit provides a platform that can create open communities to capture, evaluate, contribute to and select ideas for implementation. Among those using Spigit are private organizations or businesses extending idea communities to customers or partners, or government agencies creating open communities to capture ideas from citizens.

Presans

Presans is a startup out of the Ecole Polytechnique in France to develop and implement a multi-step dynamic expert sourcing (MDES) approach, which relies on state-of-the-art, web-mining technology and a multi-step problem-solving process.