RACINE — Companies don’t often ask the public to help solve internal problems — but one local manufacturer is, for the new Launch Box Open Innovation Competition.
Launch Box, based at 141 Main St., connects entrepreneurs and small companies with various business resources. Its first Innovation Competition involves a problem that Pioneer Products, 1917 S. Memorial Drive, is asking clever people, companies or groups to tackle — with a $600 prize as incentive.
“Part of Launch Box is trying to create a buzz about entrepreneurship, about people doing entrepreneurial things,” Launch Box Manager Kristin Niemiec explained about the contest.
Kohls, working with various Milwaukee business groups, has also put a problem out to the public, she said. Racine County Economic Development Corp., one of the Launch Box partners, suggested trying it here.
“It allows students (or others) to participate with a real company, a real-life problem,” Niemiec said.
But to hold the contest, Launch Box needed a company with a real issue to be solved. “We were looking for a problem,” Niemiec remarked.
It wasn’t the easiest thing to find. “A company has to feel comfortable revealing things about themselves to the public,” Niemiec said.
But Jim Beere, president of Pioneer Products, agreed to participate. The manufacturer had bought a new, $500,000 computer numeric control horizontal machining center and transferred some work to it.
The question, Beere said, is: What existing manufacturing by Pioneer should now be moved to the previous machining center?
“Pioneer is looking for solutions that they have not thought of yet,” Niemiec stated. “But any solution must answer some key questions” including estimating the payback time and identifying both tangible and intangible benefits.
After this contest, Niemiec said she’d like for Launch Box to do more innovation competitions. “I am looking for additional companies. I would like to do it twice a year. It doesn’t have to be an operational problem — it could be marketing, engineering ... it could be anything.”
What does she hope to accomplish? “It’s just promoting innovation, really just to keep a buzz going about entrepreneurism,” Niemiec said.
“It’s giving people an opportunity to work on an actual problem ... and to help a local company.”
About the Launch Box Open Innovation Competition
- 5:30 p.m. Monday — Pioneer Products will talk about the company and explain the problem to be solved, at the SC Johnson iMET Center, 2320 Renaissance Blvd.
- 9 a.m. Oct. 23 — Contestants may tour the company headquarters, 1917 S. Memorial Drive, and meet with Pioneer executives.
- 5:30 p.m. Nov. 11 — Contestants present their answers to Pioneer at iMET.
- For more information or to register, contact Kristin Niemiec at (262) 898-7404 or firstname.lastname@example.org.