GE announced a partnership with Local Motors, the open-source automotive manufacturer, to experiment with a new model for the manufacturing industry. The partnership will leverage co-creation and open innovation concepts to design, build and commercialize the next evolution of various GE products. The open platform, FirstBuild, will be the home for a global community of innovators to prototype, iterate and refine existing GE products, as well as submit new designs. The most popular innovations will be selected for rapid prototyping, testing and small-volume production at a public micro-factory. This partnership represents one of the first large-scale open-innovation and “crowdsourcing” programs for a Fortune 500 manufacturing company. It reflects a growing interest in customer-centric ideation, design and manufacturing techniques, and promises to advance collaboration between consumers and manufacturers. It should prove interesting to examine the techniques GE uses to evaluate and select ideas from open online communities, and to engage them during formal engineering and manufacturing procedures. A successful experiment could influence other manufactures to give credence to open-innovation opportunities that were previously dismissed as impractical.
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