31 Days of Open Innovation
Welcome to “31 Days of Open Innovation”! Get ready for an exciting journey as we showcase a collection of incredible products that owe their existence to the power of open innovation. Each day, we’ll unveil a new example of how collaboration, creativity, and shared knowledge have led to groundbreaking inventions that have shaped our lives. From everyday essentials to fun-filled favorites, discover the stories behind iconic products like cellophane, the super soaker, ice cream cones, and many more.
Day 1 – The Sports Bra
The sports bra was invented in 1977 by Lisa Lindahl, Hinda Miller and Polly Smith and was originally called the JogBra or JockBra. Inspired by the Jockstrap and a recent up taking of jogging this breakthrough invention was developed using cross-disciplinary skills honed from costume design including the production of the muppets!
Day 2 – Invisible Braces
Gone are the days of heavy metal contraptions realigning teeth. However, when the material used for invisible brace wires was created, it was for a much different purpose than straight pearly whites. Polycrystalline alumina was originally created by NASA to protect infrared antennas on their heat-seeking missile trackers! Now what polycrystalline alumina protects are those pretty smiles!
Day 3 – The Airplane
Despite this invention being attributed to the Wright brothers (and wrightfully so!), the brothers actively collaborated with other inventors and engineers seeking a way to soar in the sky. This collaboration greatly contributed to their success and helped them pave the way for a great revolution in travel.
Day 4 – Baby Stroller
The collapsible baby stroller is a godsend to parents everywhere. The convenient folding mechanism allows parents easy mobility without always hauling a cumbersome stroller. The inventor Owen Maclaren worked for a long time as an aeronautical engineer designing the collapsible undercarriage legs of the Spitfire aircraft. When he witnessed his daughter struggling with his granddaughter’s clumsy stroller, he was inspired to apply his engineering knowledge to create the collapsible baby stroller! From Spitfire to Spit-Up, Maclaren’s ingenuity with collapsible parts has been transformative!
Day 5 – Dyson Cyclone
James Dyson, inventor of the Dyson Cyclone vacuum machine was frustrated with the diminishing strength of his bag vacuum. He opened up his vacuum and found the bag was getting clogged with dust affecting suction. Dyson, being an inventor set out to find a better alternative. He took inspiration from a local sawmill that used a cyclone to keep the building clear of dust. This inspiration would lead to the Dyson Cyclone, the best-selling and first bagless vacuum.
Day 6 – Space Blanket
The “space blanket” is another invention to come out of NASA. Originally, the material was developed when the heat shield of the Skylab Space Station broke, and engineers rushed to find a solution to reflect the sun’s heat off the station. Afterward, inventors used the reflective technology for products such as blankets for marathon runners, first-aid blankets, and clothes. The blanket that saved Skylab has since saved lives, all because of the inventors who saw the potential of the material.
Day 7 – Bullet Train!
The designers of Japan’s 500 Series Shinkansen bullet train turned to nature for inspiration. They witnessed Kingfishers’ unbelievable ability to dive through the water’s surface and realized it was due to their beak’s structure. The designers used the Kingfishers’ beak as a model for the tip of the Shinkansen bullet train, allowing the train to cut through the air!
Day 8 – Post-it Notes!
Senior scientists at 3M were trying to develop a new super-strong adhesive for aircrafts when a failed experiment created a weak adhesive. The adhesive could stick to surfaces without becoming bonded to them. Moreover, the adhesive left little residue and could be easily detached and retached. With a little marketing genius, Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry created the Post-It brand, quickly becoming a best-seller!
Day 9 – Fake Tan
When scientists were researching remedies for children with Glycogen Storage Disease, they discovered their patient’s skin was turning brown! The remedy contained dihydroxyacetone (DHA) which was being used a substitute sugar. Since the side effect of browning proved to be harmless and temporary, inventors started working with the chemical, finding ways to market it. DHA is now one of the main ingredients found in fake tans across the world.
Day 10- Scratch Resistant Lenses
Yet another invention stemming from NASA’s research is the scratch-resistant lens. The technology was developed for the visors on astronauts’ helmets. Scientists would coat the visors with a film of diamond-like carbon (DLC) that provided scratch protection and reduced surface friction so water would slide off easier (which protected against spotting). Nowadays, companies like RayBans and Crizal use the technology to provide durable and stylish glasses.
Day 11- Tupperware
Before inventing Tupperware, Earl Tupper was working at DuPont, a chemical company. One day, his supervisor gave him polyethylene slag, a waste product of the oil refining process. Earl Tupper refined this waste product into the see-through plastic Tupperware we use today. Today, the Tupperware company is a giant in the container industry and is esteemed for its innovation!
Day 12- SuperGlue!
During World War II, Harry Coover was trying to create plastic gun sights for the soldiers. To attach the plastic sights, he was attempting to create a powerful adhesive. However, the adhesive was stronger than expected. Later, while working on heat-resistant jet canopies, Coover returned to the powerful adhesive and began to see its potential because it didn’t require an activating agent. Coover came to patent superglue and make it commercially available. The world has been stuck to it ever since!
Day 13 – Velcro!
Another nature-inspired innovation; Swiss engineer, George De Mestral, took his furry friend for a stroll in the woods. They both returned covered in pesky cockleburs. Curious, George examined the burrs under a microscope and discovered their secret: tiny hooks that latched onto loops in fabric and fur. After lots of experimenting, Velcro was born! Velcro has proved an invaluable invention being used by NASA astronauts in space, sports gear, shoe fastenings and many more everyday uses!
Day 14 – Ice Cream Cone!
At the 1904 St Louis World Fair, an event designed to showcase the world’s innovations, an unexpected collaboration was about to take place… Outside in the scorching heat Arnold Fornachou, an ice cream vendor, ran out of paper cups. Luckily, Ernest Hamwi, a neighboring vendor with a waffle-like pastry called “zalabia,” came to the rescue. He offered his creation to Fornachou as an ice cream holder. And voila! The ice cream cone was born, and it’s been a delicious hit ever since!
Day 15- Spacesuits!
Switching things around this time, we have NASA using a material developed externally. In preparation for the Apollo 11 Mission, NASA was developing a spacesuit adequate for the astronauts. They wanted a material that was comfortable, durable, and flexible. Lucky for them, Playtex, a bra company, had just the innovative material for them. A collaboration between the two led to the development of the spacesuits used on the Apollo 11 mission.
Day 16 – Microwave Ovens!
Inspired by top-secret World War II radar technology, the ingenious microwave oven emerged due to scientists improved understanding of electromagnetic waves. The inventor Percy Spencer was standing in front of an active radar set, when he noticed a chocolate bar in his pocket melted. He began to investigate and eventually discovered the food-heating capabilities leading to the modern microwave oven. College students around the world are forever in his favor!
Day 17 – Cellophane!
Developed in the 1920’s, the packaging hit, Cellophane, was developed by Swiss chemist Jacques E. Brandenberger. Brandenberger was trying to create a waterproof coating for fabrics when he discovered a thin clear film that could be taken from the edge of the cloth. The thin plastic quickly found use in various applications, from food packaging to gift wrapping. Brandenberger’s accidental invention has remained a staple, making him an influential figure in the history of packaging.
Day 18 – Saccharin!
The artificial sweetener, Saccharin comes from something you might not expect to be tasty at all. Constantin Fahlberg was working with coal-tar derivatives in a lab at John Hopkins University, when he tasted a sweet substance on his hand. He connected the taste with the compound he was working and began synthesizing saccharin from it. Providing a calorie-free alternative to sugar, this surprising discovery has delighted taste buds and revolutionized the way we enjoy our favorite treats without compromising on flavor.
Day 19 – Mauveine
Imagine wrapping a beautiful mauve scarf around your neck during the frigid winter. What a wonderful color you may think. You would have to thank William Henry Perkins for such a color. Perkins was a 19th century chemist endeavoring to discover a synthetically created cure to malaria. When a failed experiment left behind a purplish hue, the observant Perkins saw a big opportunity: the first synthetically produced dye. Perkins marketed the new substance, Mauveine, which became a hit in the fashion industry and traiblazed the path for other synthetic dyes.
Day 20 –Slinky!
Yet another invention coming out of World War II technology: The Slinky. The springy action of a classic children’s toy came from engineer Richard James’s mission to create stable springs for naval ships. One spring accidentally tumbled off a table and, like magic, it gracefully walked down and sprung back up! Richard displayed the captivating spring to his wife, and together they saw its potential as a children’s toy. Long live the Slinky!
Day 21: Play-Doh!
The moldable breaking the mold: Play-Doh! Noah and Joseph McVicker were tasked with creating a cleaner for the tedious residue on wallpapers. However, when they were approached by teachers who complained molding clay was too difficult for their students to mold, they decided to market Play-Doh as a kid’s toy. Now, the possibilities for sculpting, molding, and crafting are endless, encouraging imaginative play and sparking smiles everywhere.
Day 22: Safety Glass!
When French chemist Édouard Bénédictus dropped his glass flask, he probably was already picturing the hassle and hazard of cleaning ahead of him. Lucky for Bénédictus, his glass flask had previously been coated in cellulose nitrate and his flask survived without breaking. Realizing the potential for this “laminated glass,” Bénédictus further experimented to find a glass that would not shatter. Since his patent in 1909, safety glass has become an essential safety feature leaving a legacy in the glass industry and public safety.
Day 23: Stainless Steel!
Stainless Steel’s robustness and corrosion-resistant qualities have made it a staple for everyday products. You might be surprised to find out it started with finding a solution for the rusty gun barrels of British soldiers. In 1913, English metallurgist Harry Brearley was working on a project to create more durable gun barrels by experimenting with different steel alloys. One experiment with a high amount of chromium exhibited excellent resistance to rust and corrosion. Brearley further refined the material and named it “rustless steel,” later changed to “stainless steel.” This accidental discovery led to stainless steel’s dominant role in manufacturing and construction industries. Now, we see stainless steel in numerous applications from cutlery to skyscrapers and bridges to planes.
Day 24: Jacuzzi!
Few things are on par with relaxing in the bubble-filled bliss of a Jacuzzi. However, hot tubs were not originally created for recreational relaxation. The Jacuzzi was actually the result of a caring father wanting to help his young son’s rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic disease attacking his tissue and joints. Taking inspiration from the hydrotherapy treatments his son received, Candido Jacuzzi designed the first water pump that could turn a bath into a whirlpool spa.