GE’s ecomagination Challenge: An Experiment in Open Innovation

by Henry Chesbrough



This GE ecomagination Challenge case study takes place in 2010 when Beth Comstock, chief marketing officer and senior vice president of General Electric was planning a meeting with GE’s CEO, Jeffrey Immelt. The pair plan to discuss the company’s ecomagination Challenge, an open innovation process that solicited energy ideas from individuals and start-ups to identify potential ventures for green and renewable energy areas for GE to invest in. By 2011, the ecomagination Challenge had resulted in $140 million (out of its allocated $200 million) of investments in 23 ventures. However, the scale of these results was dwarfed by GE’s $37 billion energy business. So the time has come for Comstock to evaluate the results of the ecomagination Challenge more carefully and decide on whether and how to continue this kind of activity within GE’s energy business, or in other GE businesses. How should GE measure ecomagination’s results in order to justify its existence and possible future investments? What new processes and structures would be required to make sure that some of the Challenge’s investments would pay off for GE down the road? Based on the program’s results to date, was the program a good investment for GE and something GE should repeat, or was it a noble experiment that should be discontinued? 4 UNIVERSITY

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