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Stanley Electric sets up $8.5M 'open innovation' program

01 Apr 2015

Japanese lighting and electronics firm wants to partner with inventors and research groups on new products.

Stanley Electric, the Japanese company that sells a variety of lighting products for automotive and consumer applications, is inviting researchers to apply for funding under its new “open innovation” program, in a bid to help it develop new optoelectronic technologies.

The firm says it has set aside around ¥1 billion ($8.5 million) to support projects as part of the “S-OPTO” scheme, and is now inviting applications from potential partners.

On a dedicated S-OPTO web site, Stanley Electric states: “S-OPTO is an open innovation program aiming to contribute to wide range of communities by exploring the various properties of light through a collaboration with researchers worldwide who have great ideas with optoelectronic technology and new businesses [sic].”

Its chief research and development officer Koji Shimoda also writes: “Stanley believes we can achieve even more and offer more value to our customers through collaboration with outside researchers, than [if] we stick to our internal resources.”

The company says that the funding available is designed to support personnel expenses and the cost of equipment, while it can also provide help from Stanley’s own research teams if needed, and with business plan development and intellectual property issues.

And while any intellectual property generated under the S-OPTO program will be co-owned, the Tokyo-headquartered firm says that it will not be looking to take any equity positions in partner companies. “Researchers do not need to give up any shares to join our program,” it says.

Two-stage application process
Suggested themes for the program go well beyond Stanley’s existing applications base, with the company listing areas as diverse as photovoltaics, biometric devices, night vision and remote sensing among its fields of interest.

The selection process involves two rounds of applications. After the first round in which it will identify promising ideas, Stanley expects to sign non-disclosure deals with around 20 short-listed partners, and then invite those teams to submit a more detailed research and development plan. The deadline for initial submissions is June 15.

Up to five winning teams will then be selected for up to a three-year period of funding, although it is possible that a single winner will collect the full ¥1 billion. “The ultimate objective is to leverage these new technologies to go into mass production at Stanley Electric, incorporating Stanley Electric's mass production capabilities and strong sales department towards serving large global customers,” says the firm.

Individual researchers, inventors and university students are encouraged to apply, alongside larger research groups and even investor-backed start-up companies. “Individual inventors are welcome to submit inventions,” says Stanley. “In that case, you will need to set up your own company during S-OPTO and we can help.”

For those interested in applying to the S-OPTO open innovation program, application forms can be downloaded from the dedicated web site here.

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