By Chad Carrington

Transferring technology from one industry to another should be simple, but in practice, it is much more easily said than done.

Engineers, scientists, and R&D personnel are familiar with the technologies they come in contact with day to day, but they do not have much familiarity with the technologies used in other business sectors. Identifying those technologies and determining their application to solve problems in the oil and gas industry is an enormous challenge. The scope is extremely broad, and the technology needed often is very specialized.

Fortunately, companies interested in finding solutions outside the oil and gas industry have a tool available to them that gives them access to specialists from a broad range of industries. InnoCentive pairs “Seekers” who need solutions to challenging technical problems with “Solvers” who offer those solutions. For nine years, InnoCentive has worked with innovative organizations to solve their problems in this way.

As the oil and gas industry faces greater and more exacting technical challenges, it becomes more important to be able to innovate rapidly. InnoCentive helps that to happen, pairing Seekers with Solvers from fields as varied as construction and medicine. These pairings have produced interesting and innovative solutions that would not otherwise have materialized.

At the end of 2009, scientists and engineers from medicine and energy joined leading academicians for the Pumps & Pipes III ( conference to explore the similarities between moving oil and pumping blood. Pumps & Pipes III provided a forum for experts in both fields to share new technologies and explore synergies in solving technical challenges faced by the petroleum, medical, and imaging industries.

E&P magazine has addressed the need for broad collaboration in a number of settings. Earlier this year, Judy Maksoud Murray, Editor, reported from the Schlumberger Information Solutions (SIS) forum in London on a presentation by Charles Leadbeater, an authority on innovation and creativity. The focus of Leadbeater’s talk was the value and increasing importance of open collaboration. Collaboration is generally the source of great ideas, according to Leadbeater, who talked at the conference about the power of engaging the crowd to solve tricky problems. The value of this approach increases when minds are coming at a problem from different directions. The approach to open collaboration employed at InnoCentive has allowed industry-leading innovative organizations to employ Solvers with diverse backgrounds to solve problems in varied industries, including oil and gas. The open collaboration expedites the problem-solving process and leads to better solutions. Changing culture is never easy, but the dividends can be dramatic: better economics, technological breakthroughs, reduced time to market for new products, and even “on-demand” options for responding in crisis situations.

On Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010, InnoCentive and Hart Energy will host the Oil and Gas Innovation Symposium ( at the JW Marriott in the Galleria area of Houston. This event will speak directly to the power of challenge-driven innovation and how important solutions can be found from unexpected sources. The interactive session for oil and gas industry leaders will address how high quality, timely solutions to important problems can be sourced efficiently through Challenge-driven innovation across the enterprise and the world. Guest speaker Scott Pegau from the Oil Spill Recovery Institute in Cordova Alaska will be speaking about his firsthand experience in minimizing ongoing risk by using this approach to finding important solutions to the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The time to plan for 2011’s breakthrough innovation is now – why not explore the idea of adding 200,000 uniquely prepared experts to your staff, without adding them to your payroll?

Chad Carrington, InnoCentive