Harness the power of the crowd with the open innovation platform


Picture this: A farming family in eastern UP, who grows corn and wheat on their meager property using traditional farming practices, realizes that their farm’s production is steadily declining. They contact the local Agricultural Producer Organization (FPO) for information on how to explore and deploy solutions for real-time soil analysis and nutrient management. The FPO, aware that several farmers in the region are suffering from similar low yield issues, addresses an online platform in the to hope an efficient and affordable solution.

When the problem statement is integrated on the digital platform, it attracts the attention of an agricultural research institute in Kerala, which spots the synergies between the problem statement and the research it has conducted in various regions of the country. After the institution’s agricultural scientists validate the problem, emphasizing the need for urgent mitigation, a smart entrepreneur sees significant market potential in the pan-Indian problem and works out a solution. Along the way, the entrepreneur contacts potential collaborators throughout the agricultural value chain for technical and financial resources and tests a successful pilot with the same FPO that brought the issue to the fore.

This elegant process of crowdsourcing problem solving is made possible by this digital platform, which acted as a catalyst from start to finish. The Open Innovation Platform (OIP), a unique initiative of Social Alpha, is one such digital platform. It not only enables the creation of solutions, but also builds an ecosystem conducive to a successful solution to reach the market, thereby helping the entrepreneur to scale the product and deploy it in multiple geographies in India and overseas.

What is the open innovation platform?

OIP is a problem-centric platform that systematically identifies problems and manages the lab-to-market journey of innovative solutions that solve a set of validated problem statements. The platform would bring together all possible stakeholders necessary for this process, including the local end user, innovators, entrepreneurs, academics and researchers, volunteers, development organizations / NGOs, philanthropic foundations. , the CSR of companies, incubators and governments who are the main decision-makers in this space. It is designed with algorithmic intelligence that drives pattern matching to understand and guide each user’s profile and transactions. towards collaboration and co-creation on the platform. OIP is designed with the intention of creating a marketplace for problem statements, solutions and ecosystem players where the power of crowdsourcing ensures a higher engagement rate and faster turnaround time for development. , discovery and deployment of solutions.

The platform is particularly relevant for the agricultural sector suffering from a fragmented approach where philanthropic and government resources have the potential to create multiple impact and need to be used rationally. Social Alpha has partnered with CISCO India CSR to launch Krishi Mangal, with the aim of addressing the evangelism of such a platform among other goals. A common space like the OIP promotes partnerships between stakeholders for an optimal use of resources.

To facilitate this process, the OIP follows the principles below:

  1. Open, transparent, and easy access to problem statements, current solutions, cataloged solutions, and deployable businesses. This allows multiple stakeholders to work together and create a whole new solution or build on an existing one, thus eliminating the risk of information asymmetry.
  2. Streamline the processes that enable innovators and stakeholders to take innovations from the lab to market.
  3. Curation, validation and prioritization of sets of problems, innovations and companies.
  4. Incubation for the creation and marketing of businesses.
  5. Marketplace for investments as well as for financing implementations.


The use of advanced science and technology to create innovative products and services has traditionally been undertaken by the R&D departments of industrial enterprises as well as by research departments and government organizations. However, in recent years, startups have been able to disrupt the status quo using agility, cost advantage, and time to market. Since shareholder business incentives determine the level of risk companies and startups are willing to take, innovators / entrepreneurs prefer to play it safe. They would like to cater to a familiar segment of society, which has the ability to pay for products and services that meet an unmet need or create a new need in itself!

This strategy leaves out a large majority of the population because they are seen as poor and uneducated. These billions of people around the world are deprived of energy and healthcare solutions even as they grapple with low agricultural productivity, lack of market access and affordable financing in their struggle to stay on. flow. The problem becomes even more acute in the agro and its related industries given the remote geographies and the varied needs of each of them. While the basic sciences have evolved to solve some of these challenges, they have not benefited the non-consumer segment of the population. It also shows that despite the best intentions of government, academia and philanthropy, the innovation ecosystem in the face of social, economic and environmental challenges has failed to address a few fundamental gaps such as:

  1. Understand the problem
  2. Empathy with the user or customer
  3. Emphasize access, affordability and user experience as essential elements of the design
  4. Piloting with early adopters in an iterative approach
  5. A sustainable economic model

The grassroots innovation ecosystem is away from the scale structure and integrated approach to business innovation. To build a robust and resilient system, it must overcome the challenges posed by

  1. Remote and unreachable user affecting sales and distribution channels
  2. Information asymmetry leading to the reinvention of the wheel, limited reuse and sharing of best practices
  3. Users are sometimes not the customers – products / services paid for or subsidized by philanthropy, CSR or government subsidy policies are generally not in favor of incumbent startups, which is a barrier to entry into the market. Marlet
  4. Multiple stakeholders with different incentives in the innovation value chain – universities, NGOs, government, startups, microentrepreneurs, distributors / sales agents, etc. And these stakeholders don’t work together quite naturally like in business use cases.

Social Alpha aims to create an equitable ecosystem to foster discovery and collaboration through OIP. On the one hand, it deploys philanthropic investments to create businesses through its incubation and investment models, and on the other hand, its IPO is poised to harness the power of collective stakeholders by bringing together innovators. , entrepreneurs, governments and donors for market-creating innovations. .

We invite you to explore and participate in this larger vision of creating a collaborative platform to discover and resolve the long-standing issues plaguing our industries. Register today on www.agri.openinnovationplatform.org and work to make India and the world a better place.

The authors work with Social Alpha

Social Alpha is a multi-stage innovation and business development curation platform for science and technology start-ups addressing the most critical social, economic and environmental challenges through the power of entrepreneurship and innovation. market creators. Since its creation in 2016, Social Alpha has supported more than 150 start-ups, including more than 40 seed investments. For more information, please visit www.socialalpha.org


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