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Innovation Marketplace Helps People With Good Ideas Find Problems

Planet Eureka connects inventors with the problems they can solve.

The newest online marketplace is a site devoted to helping people with solutions find problems. The USA National Innovation Marketplace, at the Planet Eureka site, lets an inventor post an idea in hopes of finding a company interested in using it to solve its own problem or in bringing it to market to solve others' problems.

Planet Eureka is the brainchild of Eureka Ranch Technologies, a 22-year-old company that provides training in innovative thinking, as well as leadership and marketing techniques. To date, the company has focused its services on Fortune 100 companies such as Disney, Procter & Gamble, and Nike, says Ken Bloemer, president of Eureka's innovation group. The new site aims to match inventors with small and midsize businesses.

"There are thousands of inventors wanting to commercialize their ideas, but it's hard to get a potential manufacturer," Bloemer says. Many small and midsize businesses also lack deep R&D resources but are looking for great new ideas, he says. Those companies will get first dibs at Planet Eureka. Only small and midsize companies can view ideas during their first 100 days posted on the site. But after that, any company can access them.

Who's Hawking Ideas
PLANET EUREKA
Marketplace where inventors, patent holders, and intellectual property owners can post ideas in search of partners, buyers, and licensees. Access is free to sellers and buyers; company plans to charge for consulting and other services.
INNOCENTIVE
Connects companies, nonprofits, and government agencies looking for solutions to problems with people and organizations that have answers. Charges $15,000 to post a problem as well as 40% commission on amount paid to the solution provider.
NINESIGMA
Prepares and posts RFPs for companies and others seeking solutions to problems. Charges fees for all services.
Planet Eureka isn't the first Web site to traffic in ideas. Open innovation marketplaces have been matching businesses that have problems with people who have promising solutions for several years. Sites such as InnoCentive, a spin-off of Eli Lilly, and NineSigma, help companies find ideas to solve business or other problems. These innovation marketplaces generally post the problems and invite people to offer solutions.

Planet Eureka has turned that idea on its head, posting inventors' solutions and inviting people and companies with problems to search through them. The University of North Carolina, Charlotte, is planning to use the site for its Green Grow Right Lawn Care System, an organic spray that slows grass growth. The university is hoping to find licensees who will produce the spray and market it to home owners, golf courses, and others.

Inventors and potential investors and buyers use Planet Eureka for free. The company charges for services it provides inventors, such as workshops on how to write descriptions of ideas that tell potential investors quickly what the invention is about without forcing them to trudge through patent abstracts. Inventors can also use Planet Eureka's Merwyn software, which Bloemer says can assess the probability of an invention or idea's success based on its written description.

OTHER IDEA MATCHMAKERS
Planet Eureka follows in the path of InnoCentive, Eli Lilly's 7-year-old venture that was spun off as an independent company two years ago. InnoCentive posts a new problem every day, on average, and solves one every three days, says CEO Dwayne Spradlin. The Oil Spill Recovery Institute, a group Congress formed to develop techniques to deal with oil spills, turned to InnoCentive last fall for ideas. It found John Davis, a concrete expert who suggested a tool that uses vibration to separate oil from water after the oil and water had frozen to a viscous mass. He received $20,000 for his efforts.

NineSigma, which was launched in 2000, uses a combination of "sophisticated software" and the expertise of technical, scientific, and other specialists to help its seekers search for solutions. NineSigma brings together the knowledge that people have built up solving their own problems in their own companies and organizations and applying it to problems that other companies and organizations have, says CEO Paul Stiros. It has worked on more than 1,000 such "open innovation" projects, Stiros says, matching problems with solutions.

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