Products used in the public sector need constant updates and upgrades. They need to be innovated as frequently as consumer products, says Kevin Stark, director of technology solutions for NineSigma, a Cleveland-based provider of open-innovation services. NineSigma engages organizations with external innovation resources and enables them to share knowledge to accelerate the innovation cycle, whether they are in the private or public sectors.

“If you look at a typical police squad car, it’s amazing how much high-tech equipment is in there, and how much battery-charging that police have to do to keep all of that communications and information technology equipment in play, and what underlays all that is better batteries,” Stark told Govpro. NineSigma has helped manufacturers find and develop innovations that may lead to more efficient batteries that deliver stronger, longer charges.

NineSigma has worked with the public sector on several projects that may lead to improvements in products and technology that governments use, including:

—For the U.S. Army, NineSigma tracked down research partners that could offer new GPS location technologies. According to Stark, “The issue here was, if you are putting your soldiers into a hostile office building, being able to locate where all of your troops are in the building is crucial, but once they are inside the building, the ability to access GPS signals that can give you the soldiers’ locations is gone. The project with the Army was really focused on those location technologies that did the same thing as GPS but without a GPS signal.”

—NineSigma recently helped the LAUNCH organization and LAUNCH’s federal agency creators to identify and select 10 entrepreneurial organizations whose breakthrough technologies will potentially transform how energy is delivered to developed and developing countries around the world.

NASA, USAID, Department of State, and NIKE joined together to form LAUNCH in an effort to identify, showcase and support innovative approaches to global challenges through a series of forums.

NineSigma has a full list of the LAUNCH energy innovators and their solutions.

—NineSigma is working with the Propane Education & Research Council, an organization created through an act of Congress, on several projects that could lead to the development of propane safety and education initiatives and new products fueled by propane.

NineSigma has developed a free interactive readiness assessment tool that helps organizations determine what resources and capabilities they need to begin adopting Open Innovation, also known as external or networked innovation, and collaboration strategies. The online tool evaluates and scores an organization’s ability to collaborate internally and externally on innovation, and provides actionable recommendations on how to advance the organization’s innovation program.

Govpro has written about product innovations in highway paving and the potential role of Innocentive’s network in developing innovations in products used in the public sector.