Cleveland-based NineSigma Inc. provides an open-innovation hub for companies' technology needs — including polymer applications — by connecting its clients with other firms or organizations that can help them accelerate the process of meeting those needs.
“By and large, we are a fee-for-service organization [and] help clients grow revenues through innovation,” said Kevin Stark, vice president of the open-innovation consulting firm.
NineSigma chemists and specialists have worked with customers to improve the processing of adhesives, polymer carbon- reinforced fibers, barrier coatings and microbe-eliminating additives, among other projects, he said.
“We might work with different kinds of coatings to make a catheter slipperier,” Stark said. New efforts involve polymers, biopolymers and an “activity to avoid a petroleum-based economy.”
A recent NineSigma request-for-proposal solicitation, for example, involved a “two-system gel dispenser for accurate delivery of small gel droplets.”
Two other solicitations focused on “thermally conductive and electrically insulating resin compound” and “flame-resistant transparent resin.” In each case, Stark said, the client was a “major materials manufacturer.”
NineSigma works with universities and academics, and counts among its clients Dow Chemical Co., DuPont Co., 3M Co. and Kraft Foods Inc. Recently the firm “connected a Fortune 20 chemical company with a Fortune 100 manufacturer,” Stark said.
A NineSigma case study about coatings and specialty chemicals firm AkzoNobel NV of Amsterdam discusses the implementation of an open innovation program to help drive business growth and efficiency across distinctly different business units.
In July, NineSigma announced it was looking for sustainable packaging ideas for micronutrient powders for vitamins and minerals. Along with its partners in the effort, it issued a three-month challenge ending Sept. 30 and a reward of up to $25,000 for “novel, feasible and cost-effective” ideas. Partners are web-based collaborative Scientists Without Borders, the Sackler Institute for Nutrition Sciences at the New York Academy of Sciences, and the Sight and Life nonprofit nutrition think tank of Royal DSM NV of Heerlen, Netherlands.
NineSigma had 43 clients on the Thomson Reuters Corp. 2011 list of top 100 global innovators. Among them, 17 were in high-technology fields, seven each in consumer products or automotive markets and the remainder in chemical/material, aerospace/defense and pharmaceutical/medical-device disciplines.
Since its founding in 2000, NineSigma has launched more than 1,700 projects, connected with more than 2 million solution providers and received more than 24,000 proposals.
The firm employs 80 and, in addition to its Cleveland headquarters, has sites in Leuven, Belgium; Tokyo; and Melbourne, Australia.
Academic Henry Chesbrough established the open-innovation paradigm and has published books popularizing the subject. Since then, interest in open innovation has continued to gain traction.
NineSigma will host its fourth innovation summit from Oct. 1-3 in Philadelphia.