AIHP: It’s a pleasure to speak to you,
Jayson. Let’s start by talking about
the story behind AutoHarvest and how
Jayson Pankin: Sure. AutoHarvest is a
global online meeting place for innovators
of all types with an interest in advanced
manufacturing intellectual property. The idea
of AutoHarvest was incepted several years
before it was officially launched in 2012;
it as a non-profit organization based in
Detroit and Ann Arbor. I like to think of it
as a place for “innovation speed-dating.”
As for how it works, innovators of all kinds
join the platform and showcase technology
opportunities defined as “needs”, “solutions”
and “capabilities.” Interested parties then
find each other and privately communicate.
Once there is interest, parties can create
collaboration rooms and invite others from
all over the world to join. In this virtual room,
they can exchange messages and conduct
quick due diligence. Either they virtually shake
hands and decide on the next steps, or they
go their separate ways.
AIHP: You mentioned the idea of
AutoHarvest was incepted years ago.
So, why 2012 and not sooner?
Jayson Pankin: Great question. Two key
One is the advent of new technologies and
how fast they are being adopted. We now
have a great opportunity to harness today’s
technologies to work together and innovate
in new ways.
Secondly, the growing importance of
collaboration in advanced manufacturing.
Advanced manufacturing is a broad field,
yet there are similarities across the board.
Increasingly, the importance of collaboration
is being realized in this space. I believe
tomorrow’s complex products are not going
to be made by the technologies a large
company develops alone under its own roof.
Collaboration between different actors,
large and small, competitors and partners,
is crucial for innovation. And it needs to be
done in an unbiased, unfettered way with
everyone having a chance to participate
in a level playing field; whether grassroots
entrepreneurs or corporate titans.
AIHP: What are some of the benefits of
using digital platforms such as AutoHarvest
for facilitating innovation?
Jayson Pankin: There are a number of
benefits. One of the key ones is enabling
collaboration in a democratic way. Digital
platforms like AutoHarvest create a level
playing field, where large companies with
lots of resources, and established brands
and networks are working alongside small
companies and independent researchers—they are nowhere near the size of these large
companies, but have an opportunity to make
contact with them. Good ideas come from
everywhere. Everyone should have a chance
Secondly, with these platforms, you can
supplement the benefits of physical
interactions. To elaborate on that, our
platform allows interested parties to cast a
wide net and filter for the proverbial needle
in a haystack. Augmenting the “smart-search,” the system enables members to conduct a
quick due diligence on intellectual property
opportunities which makes the process of
finding innovation partners much more
efficient and effective. Only if they think there
is something there, they invest time in setting
up face-to-face meetings. This is allowing
the interested parties to do something
that previously took months, plus cost of
transportation, hotels, traffic etc., in less than
one hour or so.
Also, we have stories of people meeting on
AutoHarvest and never knowing they were
located one mile from one another. There
is magic in serendipitous interactions that
happen in the physical space. Digital platforms
should not replace these face-to-face
interactions but instead supplement them
and address their shortcomings to amplify
their impact. They should capture a little of
that magic and make serendipity routine.
AIHP: Very interesting. Can you speak
about some of the challenges?
Jayson Pankin: In the early stages, the
biggest challenge was gaining the trust
of the first users, especially since the first
users didn’t trust each other and were
sometimes competitors. AutoHarvest creates
an ecosystem around innovation. And every
ecosystem is based on trust. You simply
can’t create an innovation ecosystem where
you have favorites. That’s why AutoHarvest
is truly neutral and we plan to keep it this
way. Take a look at our board of advisory.
We have high ranking executives from all
three OEMs of Michigan (that is, Ford, FCA
and GM) and Tier 1 Suppliers (Visteon,
United Technologies, Delphi and JCI). We also
have many users who are small companies
and independent researchers.
The second ongoing challenge is around
security. AutoHarvest is not where confidential
information is shared and details of deals
are discussed. We have been working with
different security partners, but at the end
of the day, the system is hackable—just like
any other piece of technology. AutoHarvest
enables the introductions, preliminary
discussions and efficient due diligence.
But at some point, things have to be taken
offline and follow established protocols to
exchange confidential information.
AIHP: AutoHarvest is the first in its kind
and quite successful. Do you anticipate
facing competition from other companies,
especially for-profit ones?
Jayson Pankin: This could very well be an
emerging field. There are always players out
there looking for ways to connect people.
But I don’t view them as our competitors.
Our end goal is helping individuals and
companies solve complex problems and
advance their careers. The way I see it is the
more players are doing something similar,
the better for everyone.
AIHP: Thank you for your time, Jayson.
This was a very insightful discussion.
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