Governments are on the lookout for innovation, says Jon Fredrickson, vice president of sales, at Waltham, Mass.-based InnoCentive Inc. His firm helps governments and other organizations identify solutions to problems through a worldwide network of engineers, scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs and other experts.

"Public sector opportunities are limitless when you consider questions on environment, clean water, public health or government efficiency solutions from people around the world. The diversity of the answers we get from U.S. citizens and non-citizens brings a totally unique perspective," Fredrickson says.

Fredrickson offered examples of how experts in Innocentive's network can assist government agencies find solutions to pressing problems:

  • A group of scientists from California might have a solution to eliminating contaminants in public water supplies based on their work in developing nations that can help improve water quality.

  • An InnoCentive Solver (in the InnoCentive Network) who is a business person in Texas might know how to help a public institution address business process efficiency needs, because the Solver's company just did it.

Innocentive helps government officials collaborate with and engage people who can help solve governments' most critical issues, such as safer neighborhoods, cleaner streets or inexpensive mass transit, Fredrickson says.

On a less formal basis, inventors are offering governments a variety of innovative products, says Steve Greenberg, who is author of "GADGET NATION: A Journey Through The Eccentric World of Invention."

"In my book, I discuss a device that can help government facility managers move heavy appliances. It's called the Appliance Slide," says Greenberg. "Say you have a refrigerator, the device enables crews to easily slide the appliance away from the wall, so you can move it out or clean behind it, and then slide the appliance back into place. If a local government has changes and transfers in its staff, facility managers could use the slide to move heavy items around city hall."

The government market is worth pursuing for inventors because of its size and need for a wide assortment products, Greenberg says.

Greenberg, who serves on the board of the Henrietta, N.Y.-based United Inventors Association, has more information at his website.

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