Last April, The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership—an organization that provides business and process improvement services to manufacturing customers—partnered with entrepreneur Doug
Hall (see Doug Hall to Speak at PDx/amerimold Below) to launch the USA National Innovation Marketplace (NIM) in an effort to spur innovation in manufacturing, by helping connect companies looking for new methods and processes with inventors who have created the necessary technology.
This service is hosted at Hall’s Planet Eureka! Web site and aims to marry inventions and innovations with prospective buyers, notes Jon Paul Buchmeyer, a spokesperson for the National Innovation Marketplace. “Innovators are connected with sellers, buyers, investors, distributors and manufacturers in all industries,” he explains.
The Right Tools
Companies or manufacturers interested in using the marketplace to spur innovation should contact their local NIST/MEP center to set up a workshop, or NIM’s website (planeteureka.org), which uses an open innovation strategy of partnering, licensing and co-developing innovations with partners outside of a company, Buchmeyer says. “Anyone can list their invention or need/wish in the Marketplace,” he elaborates. “Currently, there are 748 listings by companies for need/wishes—they are looking for innovation/products. And, there are more than 1,000 listings of innovations.”
NIM uses a three-pronged approach of translation training, valuation forecasting and access to buyers, investors and distributors. This tested research program called Merwyn (see Business Simulation Tool Below) provides a fair market price estimate for the invention. Innovators wishing to be listed in the Marketplace must complete this questionnaire. “For inventors or ‘sellers’, the Marketplace enhances credibility by providing a fact-based innovation research report and sales forecast that investors or ‘buyers’ can understand in 60 seconds—based on the same sales forecasting methodology companies use to screen their internal innovations,” Hall notes. “The Marketplace web site also provides access to manufacturers via the NIST/MEP network across all 50 states and Puerto Rico, similar organizations in Canada and the UK and the publishing of innovation listings to other web partners such as the Kauffman Foundation’s I-Bridge network.”
Since listing in the Marketplace is anonymous for privacy reasons NIM doesn’t track all of the connection made, but Buchmeyer notes there have been successes. One company in Kansas used their Merwyn report about a green automotive technology to secure testing at the Tulsa Airport shuttle buses. “We also know that one inventor of a moldmaking process out of Maine also has had success.” (See Advanced Composites in Moldmaking Below.)
Buchmeyer notes that the primary challenge NIM faces is getting the word out to both companies and innovators about how ground-breaking Marketplace connections can be. “As part of the NIST/MEP team of centers in all 50 states, we are working with them to get the word out and do workshops with both companies and inventors, exposing them to the value of the Marketplace,” he says. “States like Maine, Kansas, Vermont and Arkansas have really taken the lead and set up their own state marketplaces to spur even more innovation in their areas.”
Hall concludes, “Our biggest goal is to save American manufacturing through innovation. If you’re not unique, you better be cheap. And cheap is not a winning strategy today. The best way forward is through innovation—and the Marketplace is making that happen.”