The Germany-headquartered company has designed the web platform to be open to all innovators, from university spin-offs and one man inventors, to larger organisations, and is inviting all interested parties to register and submit their ideas.
Prior to the platform’s launch, CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com spoke to the head of R&D at Beiersdorf, Klaus-Peter Wittern, to find out more about this new initiative.
“Traditionally many of the excellent ideas were generated by larger universities, big research institutes and large companies…but the world has changed a lot,” he said.
“Now it is start-ups, spin offs from universities and smaller companies, that are generating tons of ideas. For us the challenge is how to put up a screen and catch all of these new ideas. How can we cover the entire world of inventions?”
For Wittern, part of the answer was found in a web-based platform as this ‘offers a working toolbox to contact the outside world’; but, the key to the success of the platform was to offer a high level of protection for potential partners.
Pearlfinder requires interested inventors to register on its platform. Part of this registration process is an agreement on both sides to the basic terms and conditions of any working relationship, as well as an assurance of confidentiality.
“The platform is a confidential environment in which to exchange ideas, where individual inventors have the assurance that we will not just steal their ideas,” Wittern said.
“We offer a trusted network between us and the inventors,” he added, before explaining that the ideas will only be viewed by a small team of people at Beiersdorf and will not be available to competitors.
Although Beiersdorf will post details of what it is looking for on the platform, in terms of new ingredients, formulation and packaging ideas, Wittern said the company will of course be open to suggestions that are not tied to its specific requests.
Once a proposal has been left on the Pearlfinder platform, the company promises to provide feedback within 8 weeks.
“This puts the burdens on our side…we have to make sure we have a sufficient number of experts available to answer these proposals, to make sure we deliver the right feedback,” he said.
If a proposal does appeal to the team at Beiersdorf, it will be explored in more detail to see whether it can result in a business partnership, he explained.
Challenges of partnering with smaller players
While Pearlfinder is not exclusively for smaller organisations, it is expected to attract submissions from smaller players, which Wittern said does bring its own challenges.
“One of the main challenges of partnering with smaller players, which we know from past experience, is the capacity they have. After a proposal has been made we usually come back with a number of different questions, further tests and data needed, and to answer these needs internal capacity. This is often the bottle neck.”
In these cases, Wittern said the company will usually share its resources in order to generate the answers needed: “After all, if we are interested in the proposal, we have an interest to find the answers.”
2010 test period
The open innovation platform is something the company has been working on for a couple of years, and in 2010 it was opened to a select group of partners for a testing period.
According to Wittern, feedback on the platform itself was very positive, with participants particularly appreciating the confidentiality. Furthermore, he also said a number of interesting ideas were submitted which are now in the development stage.
The platform is now open for registration and can be accessed here.