Winners of Our 2018 Impact Awards

By Scott Kirsner |  October 1, 2018

InnoLead’s Impact Awards honor companies that have achieved extraordinary outcomes related to their innovation programs. Unlike other awards, InnoLead’s program is based on what matters; namely, the value and business impact of the programs—not just the fact that they exist

We’re grateful to everyone who submitted, and to our panel of 20 judges, which included innovation executives from Ralph Lauren, Home Depot, Fidelity Labs, Suffolk Construction, LinkedIn, Sanofi, and EmbraerX. Awards will be given out at a reception on Wednesday, October 17 as part of our Impact 2018 gathering for corporate innovation, strategy, and R&D executives in Boston. (For more about the awards submission and judging process, see our Impact Awards info page.)

The Winners:

AMN Healthcare
Initiative: Digital Workforce Initiative
Launched: 2017

The medical staffing company AMN Healthcare relied on human-centered design, design thinking, ethnographic studies, and a startup partnership to develop a solution that is “similar to Lyft, but for healthcare.” It enables nurses and other medical professionals to use a mobile app to get alerts about available shifts; easily accept or reject them; look for shifts based on location; or rate their experience working at a particular facility, and be rated by their manager. Within a year of the app’s launch in Los Angeles, there was a 30 percent increase in shifts worked in that market and a 30 percent increase in revenue. AMN is planning a national rollout of the app.

Initiative: Innovate Everywhere Challenge
Launched: 2015

The challenge invites employees to share “ideas that are game-changing, incredibly disruptive, and scalable for huge impact,” according to the award submission. It focuses on major problems or opportunities facing Cisco. Winning teams get $25,000 in seed funding, $25,000 as recognition, and the option to join a three-month innovation rotation program to further develop their venture. The challenge has led to more than 10 patents in progress, and four ventures adopted by the business. One venture, Project LifeChanger, leverages Cisco’s digital collaboration tools to enable people with disabilities to work remotely for the company.

DBS Bank
Initiative: Transformation to a 26,000-person Startup
Launched: 2015

The transformation strategy at Singapore-based DBS bank has three pillars: becoming digital to the core, embedding themselves in the “customer journey,” and functioning as a startup. And the bank chose to benchmark its progress against companies like Google, Apple, and Netflix. Outcomes of the transformation effort include digibank, a mobile-only bank in India and Indonesia; using the social networking app WeChat to onboard DBS customers to online banking; and a mobile wallet app, PayLah!, that has attracted 785,000 users.

Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS
Initiative: JLABS QuickFire Challenges
Launched: 2015

The Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS QuickFire Challenges address the most pressing healthcare challenges of our time—from a “world without disease” and the “lab coat of the future” to “digital beauty” innovations. These challenges seek to “unleash the competitive spirit of the innovation ecosystem to create healthcare solutions in unconventional ways,” according to J&J’s award submission, attracting applicants from the startup and academic worlds. Since January 2015, JLABS has launched 30 QuickFire Challenges, supporting innovators with more than $5.8 million in awards including cash grants, mentorship opportunities, and residency at one of 10 Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS locations around the world. QuickFire Challenges have attracted more than 2,100 applications across 53 countries, making it one of the healthcare industry’s largest innovation crowdsourcing efforts to date.

Initiative: Empower Health
Launched: 2016

Two innovation groups at Medtronic, the Healthcare Innovation Team and Medtronic Labs, partnered to help patients in emerging countries better control hypertension. The Empower Health model that they developed relies on mobile devices, automated blood pressure machines, and new software to allow doctors to create a customized hypertension management plan. Using the mobile app, doctors can track how the patient is doing, provide feedback via SMS message, and write digital prescriptions. A clinical trial with 150 patients in Ghana delivered decreases in blood pressure, and 95 percent of subjects in the trial indicated a desire to continue using the program in the future.

Revera Inc.
Initiative: Employee Innovation Challenge
Launch: 2016

Revera owns or operates more than 500 senior living facilities in the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The initial challenge focused on improving the resident experience at the company’s long-term care sites; Revera committed to piloting three of the best ideas, but received five that were worthy of piloting. One idea: motion-activated LED lighting that illuminated a clear path from the bed to the bathroom at night. On each idea, Revera gathered survey data about both resident and staff satisfaction.

Initiative: Hurricane Harvey Aerial Imagery Tool
Launched: 2017

Many insurance companies use aerial imagery to help expedite the claims settlement process, but USAA may be the first to share its data with the public. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that hit Texas in August 2017, USAA Labs worked with USAA’s property & casualty innovation group to see if there was a way to present aerial imagery to members so they could see damage to their homes—even if they had evacuated to another city or state. The USAA Labs team created a minimum viable product in just 12 hours, and a second MVP 16 hours after the initial tool launched. “We had an increase of over 10,000 visits to after the release of the application,” the award submission says. The tool was also used for both Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the fall of 2017.

Citi Ventures [Winner for Best New Initiative]
Initiative: D10X
Launched: 2017

Citi calls D10X an “internal growth model” focused on providing Citi employees with the opportunity to test new ideas that have the potential to be at least ten times better at addressing customer pain points. Employees with a new idea are coached through a validation process overseen by Citi Ventures and supported by Citi’s global innovation labs. The effort includes more than 300 “employee founders” actively working on almost 100 startup ideas. In 2017, the first two solutions that came through the program were launched: one a payment processing and reconciliation solution called CitiConnect for Blockchain, and the other an improved digital proxy voting process for shareholders.

The Runners Up:

Initiative: IdeaSpace
Launched: 2015

The goal of the IdeaSpace idea collection platform at Airbus is to broaden participation in innovation “beyond engineering, R&D, and emerging technology to other functions such as sales and marketing, ultimately creating a more business-centered innovation mindset,” according to the company’s award submission. Idea campaigns are tied to clear company priorities. More than 40,000 people use the IdeaSpace platform, and in 2018, it will support an estimated 25 different campaigns. The success of IdeaSpace has led to additional innovation infrastructure at Airbus, including the BizLab, an accelerator to support intrapreneurs, and the ProtoSpace, which provides design and prototyping resources.

Initiative: Polio Training Curriculum and Materials
Launched: 2015

Many of the last places where active polio virus exists are in conflict zones like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and some parts of Africa. To build more awareness of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, UNICEF worked with an outside firm to redesign the training curriculum for front-line healthcare workers, using design thinking. The new curriculum leveraged highly-engaging, visual materials like flash cards and a comic book. “At last report, more than 40,000 copies of the Urdu version of the comic had been distributed in Pakistan, and many thousands also in Africa in both English and in French,” according to the award submission. Polio cases in Pakistan have been on the decline, “and versions of the comic are now being developed for classroom use throughout Pakistan.”

Initiative: Open Innovation Platform
Launched: 2016

MetLife’s “collab” open innovation platform seeks to help the company tap into the global startup ecosystem to address “both known and emerging business challenges,” according to the company’s award submission. Collab invites insurtech startups and other new ventures to compete for $100,000 contracts with MetLife to pilot their solution with the company. The startups receive coaching from internal MetLife champions, and present their pitch to senior company leadership. So far, MetLife has awarded nearly $700,000 to eight startups working to reduce fraud, improve customer service, and optimize pricing, among other areas of focus.

Northwestern Mutual
Initiative: Digital Innovation: Changing Culture One Idea at a Time
Launched: 2015

“What we have created,” according to the award submission, “is not a single application, tool, or solution, but rather a comprehensive digital innovation program that has transformed our business culture.” That includes Tiger Teams that dispatch app development teams to Northwestern Mutual field offices to develop new digital solutions. These so far have created more than $25 million in value for the company. More than 1,000 employees have participated in hackathons, vaulting five ideas into production so far. And a “reverse pitch” program defines Northwestern business challenges, and gives startups the opportunity to present their solutions to the company. Northwestern is also partnering with two Wisconsin universities to create the new Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute.

Initiative: Text Savings
Launched: 2017

USAA found that most of its members don’t believe they are capable of saving money, or feel that saving requires too much effort with little reward. A pilot project focusing on customers with less than $500 in their savings accounts automatically transferred small amounts (between $1 and $9) from the customer’s checking account into savings, while sending customers light-hearted messages to create greater financial awareness. During the pilot, 63 percent of customers increased their savings by 10 percent, and 46 percent doubled their savings. The text savings prototype has now been handed off to the business for commercialization.

Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson  [Runner Up for Best New Initiative]
Initiative: World Without Disease Accelerator
Launched: 2017

The World Without Disease Accelerator is an independently-run venture inside J&J with an ambitious vision: preventing, intercepting, or curing diseases early, rather than just managing them once they have been diagnosed and are further along. The team is already involved in a clinical trial of a drug, Simponi, to slow down the death of pancreatic cells, part of the progression of Type 1 diabetes. A partnership with government agencies in Finland focused on new products to improve the health of newborns, and distributed $350,000 in grants to three winning companies