Encouraging open innovation: enabling cities in the pursuit of new ideas

It’s time for cities to think about procuring ideas rather than solutions. Melbourne invites your ideas to make commuting easier and more sociable.

As cities face increasingly complex challenges and an uncertain future it’s timely for them to think differently about how they seek out new ideas and solutions.  Whether you call it crowd-sourcing, hackathons, design competitions – open innovation has an important role to play in how our cities transform to meet the demands of the 21st century.

While most traditional procurement models ask and answer a question before calling for a pre-determined solution, open innovation models embrace the fact that the city might not even know which is the right question to ask, never mind know what solution to buy.  How do you procure a solution you never knew existed?  For example, how do you ease traffic congestion while making a city friendlier?  There’s no readymade solution and that’s why Melbourne and other cities in the 100RC network want to hear from you.

Recently at the CityXChange, we paired Mayors from cities including Atlanta, Jakarta, Cape Town and New Orleans with venture capitalists and tech startups from sectors such as FinTech, mobilty and transportation to discuss how cities can better use technology to address their challenges.  One of the most striking takeaways was the need for cities to procure ideas differently – to ask open ended questions and find partners who are willing to challenge traditional thinking to achieve truly transformational change.  Many cities don’t currently have the framework or systems that enable or support this new approach.

Take traffic congestion for an example – it’s a common problem in cities and if you ask a city planner, a commuter and a taxi driver how best to get traffic moving, you’ll get three pretty different answers.  Now ask a programmer, a carmaker and an artist and you’ll again get completely different ideas.  So why not ask them all?   Fundamental to building urban resilience is the need to ensure all citizens have a voice in how the city thinks and plans for the future.  Fundamental to 100RC is the ability for good ideas to be shared and to ensure that cities around the world aren’t constantly re-inventing the wheel.  Open innovation marries those two tenets and encourages collaboration across sectors to meet unmet needs.

Open innovation calls on everyone in a city and indeed anyone with a good idea to contribute to improving the way the city works.  Partners like Citymart are helping cities re-frame the way they ask questions to drive towards more innovative solutions to seemingly disparate problems.  The Resilient Melbourne Citymart Open Innovation Challenge calls for ways to ease congestion in the city while also making it a friendlier, more socially cohesive place to live.  Melbourne is the fourth city in our network to partner with Citymart to find solutions in support of the city’s stated resilience goals and the first to ask for solutions to such a complex set of challenges.  With several weeks to go until the Challenge closes, compelling submissions have already been received from both near and far in a truly global effort to deploy a creative solution to a complex problem.  We encourage partners and friends of 100 Resilient Cities to consider submitting your best ideas to the Resilient Melbourne Citymart Challenge and we look forward to seeing the true power of open innovation at work.

The Resilient Melbourne Citymart Open Innovation Challenge is open until 23 June.  Submit your ideas here: resilientmelbourne.com.au/citymart