InnovationWorks Unveils Idea Portal

February 15, 2008
| By Pete Daly |
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Idea Portal is open for business.

Representatives of economic development agencies throughout the seven WIRED West Michigan counties will get a good look inside the Idea Portal Monday, at the invitation of InnovationWorks.

The Idea Portal, a key component of InnovationWorks, is an online network that allows inventors to post their ideas and allows businesses to post their needs for new technologies. People who access the Idea Portal will see original ideas and a regional intellectual property database on an extremely wide variety of technical innovations that can help a business grow.

Access to the Idea Portal will be limited to members, however. Jim Ross, manager of InnovationWorks, said the company expects individuals representing up to 2,000 companies — "particularly manufacturers" — in the WIRED counties (Kent, Ottawa, Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Newaygo and Muskegon) to have signed up as members by this time next year.

"Everybody who joins and engages with us is like a partner," said Ross. "We're all in this as a community, to advance innovation."

Currently, there were only a few ideas posted on the Idea Portal, mainly as an example of what is to come. Ross noted it has just opened, and he and the staff at InnovationWorks expect "thousands" of ideas, inventions and opportunities to be "rotating" continuously on the Idea Portal by next year.

A company that is "looking for intellectual property, a solution to their problem, can list a need," said Ross.

InnovationWorks is one of 12 projects set up by The Right Place Inc. with a $15 million Workforce Innovation for Regional Economic Development (WIRED) grant from the federal government. Ross said InnovationWorks is one of many Manufacturing Extension Partnerships affiliated nation-wide with the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

"The focus of the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships is to support the small to medium-sized manufacturers in the global economy," said Ross.

According to InnovationWorks, just one in 30 patents eventually makes it into the marketplace in the form of a commercialized product, which means most intellectual property that could help companies grow is sitting idle somewhere.

The Portal won't be a blog where anybody can throw an idea at the wall and see if it sticks. Rather, it will be for genuine intellectual property, and it will use matching algorithms to link users with the best partners, resources and experts, based on their unique needs. Those seeking ideas to commercialize can access the Idea Portal and customize their search criteria.

"We have to make sure the individual (who owns the idea) understands that once you put it on (the Idea Portal) it needs to be protected in some way — either already patented or a patent applied for," said Ross.

Everything submitted for the Idea Portal will be reviewed by staff before it is put out for access by members.

To sign up for member access to the Idea Portal, go to and follow the prompts.

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